I might enumerate among the causes of the lowering of the temperature at Cuba during the winter months, the great number of shoals with which the island is surrounded, and on which the heat is diminished several degrees of centesimal temperature. This diminished heat may be assigned to the molecules of water locally cooled, which go to the bottom; to the polar currents, which are borne toward the abyss of the tropical ocean, or to the mixture of the deep waters with those of the surface at the declivities of the banks. But the lowering of the temperature is partly compensated by the flood of hot water, the Gulf Stream, which runs along the north-west coast, and the swiftness of which is often diminished by the north and north-east winds. The chain of shoals which encircles the island and which appears on our maps like a penumbra, is fortunately broken on several points, and those interruptions afford free access to the shore. In the south-east part the proximity of the lofty primitive mountains renders the coast more precipitous. In that direction are situated the ports of Santiago de Cuba, Guantanamo, Baitiqueri and (in turning the Punta Maysi) Baracoa. The latter is the place most early peopled by Europeans. The entrance to the Old Channel, from Punta de Mulas, west-north-west of Baracoa, as far as the new settlement which has taken the name of Puerto de las Nuevitas del Principe, is alike free from shoals and breakers. Navigators find excellent anchorage a little to the east of Punta de Mulas, in the three rocks of Tanamo, Cabonico, and Nipe; and on the west of Punta de Mulas in the ports of Sama, Naranjo, del Padre and Nuevas Grandes. It is remarkable that near the latter port, almost in the same meridian where, on the southern side of the island, are situated the shoals of Buena Esperanza and of Las doce Leguas, stretching as far as the island of Pinos, we find the commencement of the uninterrupted series of the cayos of the Old Channel, extending to the length of ninety-four leagues, from Nuevitas to Punta Icacos. The Old Channel is narrowest opposite to Cayo Cruz and Cayo Romano; its breadth is scarcely more than five or six leagues. On this point, too, the Great Bank of Bahama takes its greatest development. The Cayos nearest the island of Cuba and those parts of the bank not covered with water (Long Island, Eleuthera) are, like Cuba, of a long and narrow shape. Were they only twenty or thirty feet higher, an island much larger than St. Domingo would appear at the surface of the ocean. The chain of breakers and cayos that bound the navigable part of the Old Channel towards the south leave between the channel and the coast of Cuba small basins without breakers, which communicate with several ports having good anchorage, such as Guanaja, Moron and Remedios.
Having passed through the Old Channel, or rather the Channel of San Nicolas, between Cruz del Padre and the bank of the Cayos de Sel, the lowest of which furnish springs of fresh water, we again find the coast, from Punta de Icacos to Cabanas, free from danger. It affords, in the interval, the anchorage of Matanzas, Puerto Escondido, the Havannah and Mariel. Further on, westward of Bahia Honda, the possession of which might well tempt a maritime enemy of Spain, the chain of shoals recommences* and extends without interruption as far as Cape San Antonio. From that cape to Punta de Piedras and Bahia de Cortez, the coast is almost precipitous, and does not afford soundings at any distance; but between Punta de Piedras and Cabo Cruz almost the whole southern part of Cuba is surrounded with shoals of which the isle of Pinos is but a portion not covered with water. These shoals are distinguished on the west by the name of Gardens (Jardines y Jardinillos); and on the east, by the names Cayo Breton, Cayos de las doce Leguas, and Bancos de Buena Esperanza. On all this southern line the coast is exempt from danger with the exception of that part which lies between the strait of Cochinos and the mouth of the Rio Guaurabo. These seas are very difficult to navigate. I had the opportunity of determining the position of several points in latitude and longitude during the passage from Batabano to Trinidad of Cuba and to Carthagena. It would seem that the resistance of the currents of the highlands of the island of Pines, and the remarkable out-stretching of Cabo Cruz, have at once favoured the accumulation of sand, and the labours of the coralline polypes which inhabit calm and shallow water. Along this extent of the southern coast a length of 145 leagues, only one-seventh affords entirely free access; namely that part between Cayo de Piedras and Cayo Blanco, a little to the east of Puerto Casilda. There are found anchorages often frequented by small barks; for example, the Surgidero del Batabano, Bahia de Xagua, and Puerto Casilda, or Trinidad de Cuba. Beyond this latter port, towards the mouth of the Rio Cauto and Cabo Cruz (behind the Cayos de doce Leguas), the coast, covered with lagoons, is not very accessible, and is almost entirely desert.
[* They are here called Bajos de Santa Isabel y de los Colorados.]
At the island of Cuba, as heretofore in all the Spanish possessions in America, we must distinguish between the ecclesiastic, politico-military, and financial divisions. We will not add those of the judicial hierarchy which have created so much confusion amongst modern geographers, the island having but one Audiencia, residing since the year 1797 at Puerto Principe, whose jurisdiction extends from Baracoa to Cape San Antonio. The division into two bishoprics dates from 1788 when Pope Pius VI nominated the first bishop of the Havannah. The island of Cuba was formerly, with Louisiana and Florida, under the jurisdiction of the archbishop of San Domingo, and from the period of its discovery it had only one bishopric, founded in 1518, in the most western part at Baracoa by Pope Leo X. The translation of this bishopric to Santiago de Cuba, took place four years later; but the first bishop, Fray Juan de Ubite, arrived only in 1528. In the beginning of the nineteenth century (1804), Santiago de Cuba was made an archbishopric. The ecclesiastical limit between the diocese of the Havannah and Cuba passes in the meridian of Cayo Romano, nearly in the 80 3/4 degree of longitude west of Paris, between the Villa de Santo Espiritu and the city of Puerto Principe. The island, with relation to its political and military government, is divided into two goviernos, depending on the same capitan-general. The govierno of the Havannah comprehends, besides the capital, the district of the Quatro Villas (Trinidad, Santo Espiritu, Villa Clara and San Juan de los Remedios) and the district of Puerto Principe. The Capitan-general y Gobernador of the Havannah has the privilege of appointing a lieutenant in Puerto Principe (Teniente Gobernador), as also at Trinidad and Nueva Filipina. The territorial jurisdiction of the capitan-general extends, as the jurisdiction of a corregidor, to eight pueblos de Ayuntamiento (the ciudades of Matanzas, Jaruco, San Felipe y Santiago, Santa Maria del Rosario; the villas of Guanabacoa, Santiago de las Vegas, Guines, and San Antonio de los Banos). The govierno of Cuba comprehends Santiago de Cuba, Baracoa, Holguin and Bayamo. The present limits of the goviernos are not the same as those of the bishoprics. The district of Puerto Principe, with its seven parishes, for instance, belonged till 1814 to the govierno of the Havannah and the archbishopric of Cuba. In the enumerations of 1817 and 1820 we find Puerto Principe joined with Baracoa and Bayamo, in the jurisdiction of Cuba. It remains for me to speak of a third division altogether financial. By the cedula of the 23rd March, 1812, the island was divided into three Intendencias or Provincias; those of the Havannah, Puerto Principe and Santiago de Cuba, of which the respective length from east to west is about ninety, seventy and sixty-five sea-leagues. The intendant of the Havannah retains the prerogatives of Superintendente general subdelegado de Real Hacienda de la Isla de Cuba. According to this division, the Provincia de Cuba comprehends Santiago de Cuba, Baracoa, Holguin, Bayamo, Gibara, Manzanillo, Jiguani, Cobre, and Tiguaros; the Provincia de Puerto Principe, the town of that name, Nuevitas, Jagua, Santo Espiritu, San Juan de los Remedios, Villa de Santa Clara and Trinidad. The most westerly intendencia, or Provincia de la Havannah, occupies all that part situated west of the Quatro Villas, of which the intendant of the capital has lost the financial administration. When the cultivation of the land shall be more uniformly advanced, the division of the island into five departments, namely: the vuelta de abaxo (from Cape San Antonio to the fine village of Guanajay and Mariel), the Havannah (from Mariel to Alvarez), the Quintas Villas (from Alvarez to Moron), Puerto Principe (from Moron to Rio Cauto), and Cuba (from Rio Cauto to Punta Maysi), will perhaps appear the most fit, and most consistent with the historical remembrances of the early times of the Conquest.
My map of the island of Cuba, however imperfect it may be for the interior, is yet the only one on which are marked the thirteen ciudades; and also seven villas, which are included in the divisions I have just enumerated. The boundary between the two bishoprics (linea divisoria de los dos obispados de la Havana y de Santiago de Cuba) extends from the mouth of the small river of Santa Maria (longitude 80° 49′), on the southern coast, by the parish of San Eugenio de la Palma, and by the haciendas of Santa Anna, Dos Hermanos, Copey, and Cienega, to La Punta de Judas (longitude 80° 46′) on the northern coast opposite Cayo Romano. During the regime of the Spanish Cortes it was agreed that this ecclesiastical limit should be also that of the two Deputaciones provinciales of the Havannah and of Santiago. (Guia Constitucional de la isla de Cuba, 1822 page 79). The diocese of the Havannah comprehends forty, and that of Cuba twenty-two, parishes. Having been established at a time when the greater part of the island was occupied by farms of cattle (haciendas de ganado), these parishes are of too great extent, and little adapted to the requirements of present civilization. The bishopric of Santiago de Cuba contains the five cities of Baracoa, Cuba, Holguin, Guiza, Puerto Principe and the Villa of Bayamo. In the bishopric of San Cristoval de la Havannah are included the eight cities of the Havannah, namely: Santa Maria del Rosario, San Antonio Abad or de los Banos, San Felipe y Santiago del Bejucal, Matanzas, Jaruco, La Paz and Trinidad, and the six villas of Guanabacoa, namely: Santiago de las Vegas or Compostela, Santa Clara, San Juan de los Remedios, Santo Espiritu and S. Julian de los Guines. The territorial division most in favour among the inhabitants of the Havannah, is that of vuelta de arriba and de abaxo, east and west of the meridian of the Havannah. The first governor of the island who took the title of Captain-general (1601) was Don Pedro Valdes. Before him there were sixteen other governors, of whom the series begins with the famous Poblador and Conquistador, Diego Velasquez, native of Cuellar, who was appointed by Columbus in 1511.
In the island of Cuba free men compose 0.64 of the whole population; and in the English islands, scarcely 0.19. In the whole archipelago of the West Indies the copper-coloured men (blacks and mulattos, free and slaves) form a mass of 2,360,000, or 0.83 of the total population. If the legislation of the West Indies and the state of the men of colour do not shortly undergo a salutary change; if the legislation continue to employ itself in discussion instead of action, the political preponderance will pass into the hands of those who have strength to labour, will to be free, and courage to endure long privations. This catastrophe will ensue as a necessary consequence of circumstances, without the intervention of the free blacks of Hayti, and without their abandoning the system of insulation which they have hitherto followed. Who can venture to predict the influence which may be exercised on the politics of the New World by an African Confederation of the free states of the West Indies, situated between Columbia, North America, and Guatimala? The fear of this event may act more powerfully on the minds of many, than the principles of humanity and justice; but in every island the whites believe that their power is not to be shaken. All simultaneous action on the part of the blacks appears to them impossible; and every change, every concession granted to the slave population, is regarded as a sign of weakness. The horrible catastrophe of San Domingo is declared to have been only the effect of the incapacity of its government. Such are the illusions which prevail amidst the great mass of the planters of the West Indies, and which are alike opposed to an amelioration of the condition of the blacks in Georgia and in the Carolinas. The island of Cuba, more than any other of the West India Islands, might escape the common wreck. That island contains 455,000 free men and 160,000 slaves: and there, by prudent and humane measures, the gradual abolition of slavery might be brought about. Let us not forget that since San Domingo has become free there are in the whole archipelago of the West Indies more free negroes and mulattos than slaves. The whites, and above all, the free men, whose cause it would be easy to link with that of the whites, take a very rapid numerical increase at Cuba. The slaves would have diminished, since 1820, with great rapidity, but for the fraudulent continuation of the slave-trade. If, by the progress of human civilization, and the firm resolution of the new states of free America, this infamous traffic should cease altogether, the diminution of the slave population would become more considerable for some time, on account of the disproportion existing between the two sexes, and the continuance of emancipation. It would cease only when the relation between the deaths and births of slaves should be such that even the effects of enfranchisement would be counterbalanced. The whites and free men now form two-thirds of the whole population of the island, and this increase marks in some degree the diminution of the slaves. Among the latter, the women are to the men (exclusive of the mulatto slaves), scarcely in the proportion of 1: 4, in the sugar-cane plantations; in the whole island, as 1: 1.7; and in the towns and farina where the negro slaves serve as domestics, or work by the day on their own account as well as that of their masters, the proportion is as 1: 1.4; even (for instance at the Havannah),* as 1: 1.2. This great accumulation of mulattos, free negros and slaves in the towns is a characteristic feature in the island of Cuba.) The developments that follow will show that these proportions are founded on numerical statements which may be regarded as the limit-numbers of the maximum.
[* It appears probable that at the end of 1825, of the total population of men of colour (mulattos and negroes, free and slaves), there were nearly 160,000 in the towns, and 230,000 in the fields. In 1811 the Consulado, in a statement presented to the Cortes of Spain, computed at 141,000, the number of men of colour in the towns, and 185,000 in the fields. Documentes sobre los Negros page 121.]
The prognostics which are hazarded respecting the diminution of the total population of the island, at the period when the slave-trade shall be really abolished, and not merely according to the laws, as since 1820, respecting the impossibility of continuing the cultivation of sugar on a large scale, and respecting the approaching time when the agricultural industry of Cuba shall be restrained to plantations of coffee and tobacco, and the breeding of cattle, are founded on arguments which do not appear to me to be perfectly just. Instead of indulging in gloomy presages the planters would do well to wait till the government shall have procured positive statistical statements. The spirit in which even very old enumerations were made, for instance that of 1775, by the distinction of age, sex, race, and state of civil liberty, deserves high commendation. Nothing but the means of execution were wanting. It was felt that the inhabitants were powerfully interested in knowing partially the occupations of the blacks, and their numerical distribution in the sugar-settlements, farms and towns. To remedy evil, to avoid public danger, to console the misfortunes of a suffering race, who are feared more than is acknowledged, the wound must be probed; for in the social body, when governed by intelligence, there is found, as in organic bodies, a repairing force, which may be opposed to the most inveterate evils.
In the year 1811 the municipality and the Tribunal of Commerce of the Havannah computed the total population of the island of Cuba to be 600,000, including 326,000 people of colour, free or slaves, mulattos or blacks. At that time, nearly three-fifths of the people of colour resided in the jurisdiction of the Havannah, from Cape Saint Antonio to Alvarez. In this part it appears that the towns contained as many mulattos and free negroes as slaves, but that the coloured population of the towns was to that of the fields as two to three. In the eastern part of the island, on the contrary, from Alvarez to Santiago de Cuba and Cape Maysi, the men of colour inhabiting the towns nearly equalled in number those scattered in the farms. From 1811 till the end of 1825, the island of Cuba has received along the whole extent of its coast, by lawful and unlawful means, 185,000 African blacks, of whom the custom-house of the Havannah, only, registered from 1811 to 1820, about 116,000. This newly introduced mass has no doubt been spread more in the country than in the towns; it must have changed the relations which persons well informed of the localities had established in 1811, between the eastern and western parts of the island, between the towns and the fields. The negro slaves have much augmented in the eastern plantations; but the fact that, notwithstanding the importation of 185,000 bozal negroes, the mass of men of colour, free and slaves, has not augmented, from 1811 to 1825, more than 64,000, or one-fifth, shows that the changes in the relation of partial distribution are restrained within narrower limits than one would at first be inclined to admit.
The proportions of the castes with respect to each other will remain a political problem of high importance till such time as a wise legislation shall have succeeded in calming inveterate animosities and in granting equality of rights to the oppressed classes. In 1811, the number of whites in the island of Cuba exceeded that of the slaves by 62,000, whilst it nearly equalled the number of the people of colour, both free and slaves. The whites, who in the French and English islands formed at the same period nine-hundredths of the total population, amounted in the island of Cuba to forty-five hundredths. The free men of colour amounted to nineteen hundredths, that is, double the number of those in Jamaica and Martinique. The numbers given in the enumeration of 1817, modified by the Deputacion Provincial, being only 115,700 freedmen and 225,300 slaves, the comparison proves, first, that the freedmen have been estimated with little precision either in 1811 or in 1817; and, secondly, that the mortality of the negroes is so great, that notwithstanding the introduction of more than 67,700 African negroes registered at the custom-house, there were only 13,300 more slaves in 1817 than in 1811.
In 1817 a new enumeration was substituted for the approximative estimates attempted in 1811. From the census of 1817 it appears that the total population of the island of Cuba amounted to 572,363. The number of whites was 257,380; of free men of colour, 115,691, and of slaves 199,292.
In no part of the world where slavery prevails is emancipation so frequent as in the island of Cuba. The Spanish legislature favours liberty, instead of opposing it, like the English and French legislatures. The right of every slave to choose his own master, or set himself free, if he can pay the purchase-money, the religious feeling which disposes many masters in easy circumstances to liberate some of their slaves, the habit of keeping a multitude of blacks for domestic service, the attachments which arise from this intercourse with the whites, the facility with which slaves who are mechanics accumulate money, and pay their masters a certain sum daily, in order to work on their own account — such are the principal causes which in the towns convert so many slaves into free men of colour. I might add the chances of the lottery, and games of hazard, but that too much confidence in those means often produces the most fatal effects.
The primitive population of the West India Islands having entirely disappeared (the Zambo Caribs, a mixture of natives and negroes, having been transported in 1796, from St. Vincent to the island of Ratan), the present population of the islands (2,850,000) must be considered as composed of European and African blood. The negroes of pure race form nearly two-thirds; the whites one-fifth; and the mixed race one-seventh. In the Spanish colonies of the continent, we find the descendants of the Indians who disappear among the mestizos and zambos, a mixture of Indians with whites and negroes. The archipelago of the West Indies suggests no such consolatory idea. The state of society was there such, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, that, with some rare exceptions, the new planters paid as little attention to the natives as the English now do in Canada. The Indians of Cuba have disappeared like the Guanches of the Canaries, although at Guanabacoa and Teneriffe false pretensions were renewed forty years ago, by several families, who obtained small pensions from the government on pretext of having in their veins some drops of Indian or Guanche blood. It is impossible now to form an accurate judgment of the population of Cuba or Hayti in the time of Columbus. How can we admit, with some, that the island of Cuba, at its conquest in 1511, had a million of inhabitants, and that there remained of that million, in 1517, only 14,000! The statistic statements in the writings of the bishop of Chiapa are full of contradictions. It is related that the Dominican monk, Fray Luys Bertram, who was persecuted* by the encomenderos, as the Methodists now are by some English planters, predicted that the 200,000 Indians which Cuba contained, would perish the victims of the cruelty of Europeans. If this be true, we may at least conclude that the native race was far from being extinct between the years 1555 and 1569; but according to Gomara (such is the confusion among the historians of those times) there were no longer any Indians on the island of Cuba in 1553. To form an idea of the vagueness of the estimates made by the first Spanish travellers, at a period when the population of no province of the peninsula was ascertained, we have but to recollect that the number of inhabitants which Captain Cook and other navigators assigned to Otaheite and the Sandwich Islands, at a time when statistics furnished the most exact comparisons, varied from one to five. We may conceive that the island of Cuba, surrounded with coasts adapted for fishing, might, from the great fertility of its soil, afford sustenance for several millions of those Indians who have no desire for animal food, and who cultivate maize, manioc, and other nourishing roots; but had there been that amount of population, would it not have been manifest by a more advanced degree of civilization than the narrative of Columbus describes? Would the people of Cuba have remained more backward in civilization than the inhabitants of the Lucayes Islands? Whatever activity may be attributed to causes of destruction, such as the tyranny of the conquistadores, the faults of governors, the too severe labours of the gold-washings, the small-pox and the frequency of suicides,* it would be difficult to conceive how in thirty or forty years three or four hundred thousand Indians could entirely disappear. The war with the Cacique Hatuey was short and was confined to the most eastern part of the island. Few complaints arose against the administration of the two first Spanish governors, Diego Velasquez and Pedro de Barba. The oppression of the natives dates from the arrival of the cruel Hernando de Soto about the year 1539. Supposing, with Gomara, that fifteen years later, under the government of Diego de Majariegos (1554 to 1564), there were no longer any Indians in Cuba, we must necessarily admit that considerable remains of that people saved themselves by means of canoes in Florida, believing, according to ancient traditions, that they were returning to the country of their ancestors. The mortality of the negro slaves, observed in our days in the West Indies, can alone throw some light on these numerous contradictions. To Columbus and Velasquez the island of Cuba must have appeared well peopled,* if, for instance, it contained as many inhabitants as were found there by the English in 1762. The first travellers were easily deceived by the crowds which the appearance of European vessels brought together on some points of the coast. Now, the island of Cuba, with the same ciudades and villas which it possesses at present, had not in 1762 more than 200,000 inhabitants; and yet, among a people treated like slaves, exposed to the violence and brutality of their masters, to excess of labour, want of nourishment, and the ravages of the small-pox — forty-two years would not suffice to obliterate all but the remembrance of their misfortunes on the earth. In several of the Lesser Antilles the population diminishes under English domination five and six per cent annually; at Cuba, more than eight per cent; but the annihilation of 200,000 in forty-two years supposes an annual loss of twenty-six per cent, a loss scarcely credible, although we may suppose that the mortality of the natives of Cuba was much greater than that of negroes bought at a very high price.
[* See the curious revelations in Juan de Marieta, Hist. de todos los Santos de Espana libro 7 page 174.]
[* The rage of hanging themselves by whole families, in huts and caverns, as related by Garcilasso, was no doubt the effect of despair; yet instead of lamenting the barbarism of the sixteenth century, it was attempted to exculpate the conquistadores, by attributing the disappearance of the natives to their taste for suicide. See Patriota tome 2 page 50. Numerous sophisms of this kind are found in a work published by M. Nuix on the humanity of the Spaniards in the conquest of America. This work is entitled Reflexiones imparciales sobre la humanidad de los Epanoles contra los pretendidos filosofos y politicos, para illustrar las historias de Raynal y Robertson; escrito en Italiano por el Abate Don Juan Nuix, y traducido al castellano par Don Pedro Varela y Ulloa, del Consejo de S.M. 1752. [Impartial reflections on the humanity of the Spaniards, intended to controvert pretended philosophers and politicians, and to illustrate the histories of Raynal and Robertson; written in Italian by the Abate Don Juan Nuix and translated into Castilian by Don Pedro Varela y Ulloa, member of His Majesty’s Council.] The author, who calls the expulsion of the Moors under Philip III a meritorious and religious act, terminates his work by congratulating the Indians of America “on having fallen into the hands of the Spaniards, whose conduct has been at all times the most humane, and their government the wisest.” Several pages of this book recall the salutary rigour of the Dragonades; and that odious passage, in which a man distinguished for his talents and his private virtues, the Count de Maistre (Soirees de St. Petersbourg tome 2 page 121) justifies the Inquisition of Portugal “which he observes has only caused some drops of guilty blood to flow.” To what sophisms must they have recourse, who would defend religion, national honour or the stability of governments, by exculpating all that is offensive to humanity in the actions of the clergy, the people, or kings! It is vain to seek to destroy the power most firmly established on earth, namely, the testimony of history.]
[* Columbus relates that the island of Hayti was sometimes attacked by a race of black men (gente negra), who lived more to the south or south-west. He hoped to visit them in his third voyage because those black men possessed a metal of which the admiral had procured some pieces in his second voyage. These pieces were sent to Spain and found to be composed of 0.63 of gold, 0.14 of silver and 0.19 of copper. In fact, Balboa discovered this black tribe in the Isthmus of Darien. “That conquistador,” says Gomara, “entered the province of Quareca: he found no gold, but some blacks, who were slaves of the lord of the place. He asked this lord whence he had received them; who replied, that men of that colour lived near the place, with whom they were constantly at war . . . These negroes,” adds Gomara, “exactly resemble those of Guinea; and no others have since been seen in America (en las Indios yo pienso que no se han visto negros despues.”) The passage is very remarkable. Hypotheses were formed in the sixteenth century, as now; and Petrus Martyr imagined that these men seen by Balboa (the Quarecas), were Ethiopian blacks who, as pirates, infested the seas, and had been shipwrecked on the coast of America. But the negroes of Soudan are not pirates; and it is easier to conceive that Esquimaux, in their boats of skins, may have gone to Europe, than the Africans to Darien. Those learned speculators who believe in a mixture of the Polynesians with the Americans rather consider the Quarecas as of the race of Papuans, similar to the negritos of the Philippines. Tropical migrations from west to east, from the most western part of Polynesia to the Isthmus of Darien, present great difficulties, although the winds blow during whole weeks from the west. Above all, it is essential to know whether the Quarecas were really like the negroes of Soudan, as Gomara asserts, or whether they were only a race of very dark Indians (with smooth and glossy hair), who from time to time, before 1492, infested the coasts of the island of Hayti which has become in our days the domain of Ethiopians.]
In studying the history of the island we observe that the movement of colonization has been from east to west; and that here, as everywhere in the Spanish colonies, the places first peopled are now the most desert. The first establishment of the whites was in 1511 when, according to the orders of Don Diego Columbus, together with the conquistador and poblador Velasquez, he landed at Puerto de Palmas, near Cape Maysi, then called Alfa y Omega, and subdued the cacique Hatuey who, an emigrant and fugitive from Hayti, had withdrawn to the eastern part of the island of Cuba, and had become the chief of a confederation of petty native princes. The building of the town of Baracoa was begun in 1512; and later, Puerto Principe, Trinidad, the Villa de Santo Espiritu, Santiago de Cuba (1514), San Salvador de Bayamo, and San Cristoval de la Havana. This last town was originally founded in 1515 on the southern coast of the island, in the Partido of Guines, and transferred, four years later, to Puerto de Carenas, the position of which at the entrance of the two channels of Bahama (el Viejo y de Nuevo) appears to be much more favourable to commerce than the coast on the south-west of Batabano.* The progress of civilization since the sixteenth century has had a powerful influence on the relations of the castes with each other; these relations vary in the districts which contain only farms for cattle, and in those where the soil has been long cleared; in the sea-ports and inland towns, in the spots where colonial produce is cultivated, and in such as produce maize, vegetables and forage.
[* A tree is still shown at the Havannah (at Puerto de Carenas) under the shade of which the Spaniards celebrated their first mass. The island, now called officially The ever-faithful island of Cuba, was after its discovery named successively Juana Fernandina, Isla de Santiago, and Isla del Ave Maria. Its arms date from the year 1516.]
Until the latter part of the eighteenth century the number of female slaves in the sugar plantations of Cuba was extremely limited; and what may appear surprising is that a prejudice, founded on religious scruples, opposed the introduction of women, whose price at the Havannah was generally one-third less than that of men. The slaves were forced to celibacy on the pretext of avoiding moral disorder. The Jesuits and the Bethlemite monks alone renounced that fatal prejudice, and encouraged negresses in their plantations. If the census, no doubt imperfect, of 1775, yielded 15,562 female, and 29,366 male slaves, we must not forget that that enumeration comprehended the totality of the island, and that the sugar plantations occupy even now but a quarter of the slave population. After the year 1795, the Consulado of the Havannah began to be seriously occupied with the project of rendering the increase of the slave population more independent of the variations of the slave-trade. Don Francisco Arango, whose views were ever characterized by wisdom, proposed a tax on the plantations in which the number of slaves was not comprised of one-third females. He also proposed a tax of six piastres on every negro brought into the island, and from which the women (negras bozales) should be exempt. These measures were not adopted because the colonial assembly refused to employ coercive means; but a desire to promote marriages and to improve the condition of the children of slaves has existed since that period, when a cedula real (of the 22nd April, 1804) recommended those objects “to the conscience and humanity of the planters.”
The first introduction of negroes into the eastern part of the island of Cuba took place in 1521 and their number did not exceed 300. The Spaniards were then much less eager for slaves than the Portuguese; for, in 1539, there was a sale of 12,000 negroes at Lisbon, as in our days (to the eternal shame of Christian Europe) the trade in Greek slaves is carried on at Constantinople and Smyrna. In the sixteenth century the slave-trade was not free in Spain; the privilege of trading, which was granted by the Court, was purchased in 1586, for all Spanish America, by Gaspar de Peralta; in 1595, by Gomez Reynel; and in 1615, by Antonio Rodriguez de Elvas. The total importation then amounted to only 3500 negroes annually; and the inhabitants of Cuba, who were wholly engaged in rearing cattle, scarcely received any. During the war of succession, French ships were accustomed to stop at the Havannah and to exchange slaves for tobacco. The Asiento treaty with the English in some degree augmented the introduction of negroes; yet in 1763, although the taking of the Havannah and the sojourn of strangers gave rise to new wants, the number of slaves in the jurisdiction of the Havannah did not amount to 25,000; and in the whole island, not to 32,000. The total number of African negroes imported from 1521 to 1763 was probably 60,000; their descendants survive among the free mulattos, who inhabit for the most part the eastern side of the island. From the year 1763 to 1790, when the negro-trade was declared free, the Havannah received 24,875 (by the Compania de Tobacos 4957, from 1763 to 1766; by the contract of the Marquess de Casa Enrile, 14,132, from 1773 to 1779; by the contract of Baker and Dawson, 5786, from 1786 to 1789). If we estimate the introduction of slaves in the eastern part of the island during those twenty-seven years (1763 to 1790) at 6000, we find from the discovery of the island of Cuba, or rather from 1521 to 1790, a total of 90,875. We shall soon see that by the ever-increasing activity of the slave-trade the fifteen years that followed 1790 furnished more slaves than the two centuries and a half which preceded the period of the free trade. That activity was redoubled when it was stipulated between England and Spain that the slave-trade should be prohibited north of the equator, from November 22nd, 1817, and entirely abolished on the 30th May, 1820. The King of Spain accepted from England (which posterity will one day scarcely believe) a sum of 400,000 pounds sterling, as a compensation for the loss which might result from the cessation of that barbarous commerce.
Jamaica received from Africa in the space of three hundred years 850,000 blacks; or, to fix on a more certain estimate, in one hundred and eight years (from 1700 to 1808) nearly 677,000; and yet that island does not now possess 380,000 blacks, free mulattos and slaves. The island of Cuba furnishes a more consoling result; it has 130,000 free men of colour, whilst Jamaica, on a total population half as great, contains only 35,000.
On comparing the island of Cuba with Jamaica, the result of the comparison seems to be in favour of the Spanish legislation, and the morals of the inhabitants of Cuba. These comparisons demonstrate a state of things in the latter island more favorable to the physical preservation, and to the liberation of the blacks; but what a melancholy spectacle is that of Christian and civilized nations, discussing which of them has caused the fewest Africans to perish during the interval of three centuries, by reducing them to slavery! Much cannot be said in commendation of the treatment of the blacks in the southern parts of the United States; but there are degrees in the sufferings of the human species. The slave who has a hut and a family is less miserable than he who is purchased as if he formed part of a flock. The greater the number of slaves established with their families in dwellings which they believe to be their own property, the more rapidly will their numbers increase.
The annual increase of the last ten years in the United States (without counting the manumission of 100,000), was twenty-six on a thousand, which produces a doubling in twenty-seven years. Now, if the slaves at Jamaica and Cuba had multiplied in the same proportion, those two islands (the former since 1795, and the latter since 1800) would possess almost their present population, without 400,000 blacks having been dragged from the coast of Africa, to Port–Royal and the Havannah.
The mortality of the negroes is very different in the island of Cuba, as in all the West Indies, according to the nature of their treatment, the humanity of masters and overseers, and the number of negresses who can attend to the sick. There are plantations in which fifteen to eighteen per cent perish annually. I have heard it coolly discussed whether it were better for the proprietor not to subject the slaves to excessive labour and consequently to replace them less frequently, or to draw all the advantage possible from them in a few years, and replace them oftener by the acquisition of bozal negroes. Such are the reasonings of cupidity when man employs man as a beast of burden! It would be unjust to entertain a doubt that within fifteen years negro mortality has greatly diminished in the island of Cuba. Several proprietors have made laudable efforts to improve the plantation system.
It has been remarked how much the population of the island of Cuba is susceptible of being augmented in the lapse of ages. As the native of a northern country, little favoured by nature, I may observe that the Mark of Brandebourg, for the most part sandy, contains, under an administration favourable to the progress of agricultural industry, on a surface only one-third of that of Cuba, a population nearly double. The extreme inequality in the distribution of the population, the want of inhabitants on a great part of the coast, and its immense development, render the military defence of the whole island impossible: neither the landing of an enemy nor illicit trade can be prevented. The Havannah is well defended, and its works rival those of the most important fortified towns of Europe; the Torreones, and the fortifications of Cogimar, Jaruco, Matanzas, Mariel, Bahia Honda, Batabano, Xagua and Trinidad might resist for a considerable time the assaults of an enemy; but on the other hand two-thirds of the island are almost without defence, and could scarcely be protected by the best gun-boats.
Intellectual cultivation is almost entirely limited to the whites, and is as unequally distributed as the population. The best society of the Havannah may be compared for easy and polished manners with the society of Cadiz and with that of the richest commercial towns of Europe; but on quitting the capital, or the neighbouring plantations, which are inhabited by rich proprietors, a striking contrast to this state of partial and local civilization is manifest, in the simplicity of manners prevailing in the insulated farms and small towns. The Havaneros or natives of the Havannah were the first among the rich inhabitants of the Spanish colonies who visited Spain, France and Italy; and at the Havannah the people were always well informed of the politics of Europe. This knowledge of events, this prescience of future chances, have powerfully aided the inhabitants of Cuba to free themselves from some of the burthens which check the development of colonial prosperity. In the interval between the peace of Versailles and the beginning of the revolution of San Domingo, the Havannah appeared to be ten times nearer to Spain than to Mexico, Caracas and New Grenada. Fifteen years later, at the period of my visit to the colonies, this apparent inequality of distance had considerably diminished; now, when the independence of the continental colonies, the importation of foreign manufactures and the financial wants of the new states have multiplied the intercourse between Europe and America; when the passage is shortened by improvements in navigation; when the Columbians, the Mexicans and the inhabitants of Guatimala rival each other in visiting Europe; the ancient Spanish colonies — those at least that are bathed by the Atlantic — seem alike to have drawn nearer to the continent. Such are the changes which a few years have produced, and which are proceeding with increasing rapidity. They are the effects of knowledge and of long-restrained activity; and they render less striking the contrast in manners and civilization which I observed at the beginning of the century, at Caracas, Bogota, Quito, Lima, Mexico and the Havannah. The influences of the Basque, Catalanian, Galician and Andalusian origin become every day more imperceptible.
The island of Cuba does not possess those great and magnificent establishments the foundation of which is of very remote date in Mexico; but the Havannah can boast of institutions which the patriotism of the inhabitants, animated by a happy rivalry between the different centres of American civilization, will know how to extend and improve whenever political circumstances and confidence in the preservation of internal tranquillity may permit. The Patriotic Society of the Havannah (established in 1793); those of Santo Espiritu, Puerto Principe, and Trinidad, which depend on it; the university, with its chairs of theology, jurisprudence, medicine and mathematics, established since 1728, in the convent of the Padres Predicedores;* the chair of political economy, founded in 1818; that of agricultural botany; the museum and the school of descriptive anatomy, due to the enlightened zeal of Don Alexander Ramirez; the public library, the free school of drawing and painting; the national school; the Lancastrian schools, and the botanic garden, are institutions partly new, and partly old. Some stand in need of progressive amelioration, others require a total reform to place them in harmony with the spirit of the age and the wants of society.
[* The clergy of the island of Cuba is neither numerous nor rich, if we except the Bishop of the Havannah and the Archbishop of Cuba, the former of whom has 110,000 piastres, and the latter 40,000 piastres per annum. The canons have 3000 piastres. The number of ecclesiastics does not exceed 1100, according to the official enumeration in my possession.]
When the Spaniards began their settlements in the islands and on the continent of America those productions of the soil chiefly cultivated were, as in Europe, the plants that serve to nourish man. This primitive stage of the agricultural life of nations has been preserved till the present time in Mexico, in Peru, in the cold and temperate regions of Cundinamarca, in short, wherever the domination of the whites comprehends a vast extent of territory. The alimentary plants, bananas, manioc, maize, the cereals of Europe, potatoes and quinoa, have continued to be, at different heights above the level of the sea, the basis of continental agriculture within the tropics. Indigo, cotton, coffee and sugar-cane appear in those regions only in intercalated groups. Cuba and the other islands of the archipelago of the Antilles presented during the space of two centuries and a half a uniform aspect: the same plants were cultivated which had nourished the half-wild natives and the vast savannahs of the great islands were peopled with numerous herds of cattle. Piedro de Atienza planted the first sugar-canes in Saint Domingo about the year 1520; and cylindrical presses, moved by water-wheels, were constructed.* But the island of Cuba participated little in these efforts of rising industry; and what is very remarkable, in 1553, the historians of the Conquest* mention no exportation of sugar except that of Mexican sugar for Spain and Peru. Far from throwing into commerce what we now call colonial produce, the Havannah, till the eighteenth century, exported only skins and leather. The rearing of cattle was succeeded by the cultivation of tobacco and the rearing of bees, of which the first hives (colmenares) were brought from the Floridas. Wax and tobacco soon became more important objects of commerce than leather, but were shortly superseded in their turn by the sugar-cane and coffee. The cultivation of these productions did not exclude more ancient cultivation; and, in the different phases of agricultural industry, notwithstanding the general tendency to make the coffee plantations predominate, the sugar-houses furnish the greatest amount in the annual profits. The exportation of tobacco, coffee, sugar and wax, by lawful and illicit means, amounts to fourteen millions of piastres, according to the actual price of those articles.
[* On the trapiches or molinos de agua of the sixteenth century see Oviedo, Hist. nat. des Ind. lib. 4 cap. 8.]
[* Lopez de Gomara, Conquista de Mexico (Medina del Campo 1353) fol. 129.]
Three qualities of sugar are distinguished in the island of Cuba, according to the degree of purity attained by refining (grados de purga). In every loaf or reversed cone the upper part yields the white sugar; the middle part the yellow sugar, or quebrado; and the lower part, or point of the cone, the cucurucho. All the sugar of Cuba is consequently refined; a very small quantity is introduced of coarse or muscovado sugar (by corruption, azucar mascabado). The forms being of a different size, the loaves (panes) differ also in weight. They generally weigh an arroba after refining. The refiners (maestros de azucar) endeavour to make every loaf of sugar yield five-ninths of white, three-ninths of quebrado, and one-ninth of cucurucho. The price of white sugar is higher when sold alone than in the sale called surtido, in which three-fifths of white sugar and two-fifths of quebrado are combined in the same lot. In the latter case the difference of the price is generally four reals (reales de plata); in the former, it rises to six or seven reals. The revolution of Saint Domingo, the prohibitions dictated by the Continental System of Napoleon, the enormous consumption of sugar in England and the United States, the progress of cultivation in Cuba, Brazil, Demerara, the Mauritius and Java, have occasioned great fluctuations of price. In an interval of twelve years it was from three to seven reals in 1807, and from twenty-four to twenty-eight reals in 1818, which proves fluctuations in the relation of one to five.
During my stay in the plains of Guines, in 1804, I endeavoured to obtain some accurate information respecting the statistics of the making of cane-sugar. A great yngenio producing from 32,000 to 40,000 arrobas of sugar is generally fifty caballerias,* or 650 hectares in extent, of which the half (less than one-tenth of a square sea league) is allotted to sugar-making properly so called (canaveral) and the other half for alimentary plants and pasturage (potrero). The price of land varies, naturally, according to the quality of the soil and the proximity of the ports of the Havannah, Matanzas and Mariel. In a circuit of twenty-five leagues round the Havannah the caballeria may be estimated at two or three thousand piastres. For a produce* of 32,000 arrobas (or 2000 cases of sugar) the yngenio must have at least three hundred negroes. An adult and acclimated slave is worth from four hundred and fifty to five hundred piastres; a bozal negro, adult, not acclimated, three hundred and seventy to four hundred piastres. It is probable that a negro costs annually, in nourishment, clothing and medicine, forty-five to fifty piastres; consequently, with the interest of the capital, and deducting the holidays, more than twenty-two sous per day. The slaves are fed with tasajo (meat dried in the sun) of Buenos Ayres and Caracas; salt-fish (bacalao) when the tasajo is too dear; and vegetables (viandas) such as pumpkins, munatos, batatas, and maize. An arroba of tasajo was worth ten to twelve reals at Guines in 1804; and from fourteen to sixteen in 1825. An yngenio, such as we here suppose (with a produce of 32,000 to 40,000 arrobas), requires, first, three machines with cylinders put in motion by oxen (trapiches) or two water-wheels; second, according to the old Spanish method, which, by a slow fire causes a great consumption of wood, eighteen cauldrons (piezas); according to the first method of reverberation (introduced since the year 1801 by Mr. Bailli of Saint Domingo under the auspices of Don Nicolas Calvo) three clarificadoras, three peilas and two traines de tachos (each train has three piezas), in all twelve fondos. It is commonly asserted that three arrobas of refined sugar yield one barrel of miel, and that the molasses are sufficient for the expenses of the plantation: this is especially the case where they produce brandy in abundance. Thirty-two thousand arrobas of sugar yield 15,000 bariles de miel (at two arrobas) of which five hundred pipas de aguardiente de cana are made, at twenty-five piastres.
[* The agrarian measure, called caballeria, is eighteen cordels, (each cordel includes twenty-four varas) or 432 square varas; consequently, as 1 vara = 0.835m., according to Rodriguez, a caballeria is 186,624 square varas, or 130,118 square metres, or thirty-two and two-tenths English acres.]
[* There are very few plantations in the whole island of Cuba capable of furnishing 40,000 arrobas; among these few are the yngenio of Rio Blanco, or of the Marquess del Arca, and those belonging to Don Rafael Ofarrel and Dona Felicia Jaurregui. Sugar-houses are thought to be very considerable that yield 2000 cases annually, or 32,000 arrobas (nearly 368,000 kilogrammes.) In the French colonies it is generally computed that the third or fourth part only of the land is allotted for the plantation of food (bananas, ignames and batates); in the Spanish colonies a greater surface is lost in pasturage; this is the natural consequence of the old habits of the haciendas de ganado.]
In establishing an yngenio capable of furnishing two thousand caxas yearly, a capitalist would draw, according to the old Spanish method, and at the present price of sugar, an interest of six and one-sixth per cent; an interest no way considerable for an establishment not merely agricultural, and of which the expense remains the same, although the produce sometimes diminishes more than a third. It is very rarely that one of those great yngenios can make 32,000 cases of sugar during several successive years. It cannot therefore be matter of surprise that when the price of sugar in the island of Cuba has been very low (four or five piastres the quintal), the cultivation of rice has been preferred to that of the sugar-cane. The profit of the old landowners (haciendados) consists, first, in the circumstance that the expenses of the settlement were much less twenty or thirty years ago, when a caballeria of good land cost only 1200 or 1600 piastres, instead of 2500 to 3000; and the adult negro 300 piastres, instead of 450 to 500; second, in the balance of the very low and the very high prices of sugar. These prices are so different in a period of ten years that the interest of the capital varies from five to fifteen per cent. In the year 1804, for instance, if the capital employed had been only 100,000 piastres, the raw produce, according to the value of sugar and rum, would have amounted to 94,000 piastres. Now, from 1797 to 1800, the price of a case of sugar was sometimes, mean value, forty piastres instead of twenty-four, which I was obliged to suppose in the calculation for the year 1825. When a sugar-house, a great manufacture or a mine is found in the hands of the person who first formed the establishment, the estimate of the rate of interest which the capital employed yields to the proprietor, can be no guide to those who, purchasing afterwards, balance the advantages of different kinds of industry.
In soils that can be watered, or where plants with tuberose roots have preceded the cultivation of the sugar-cane, a caballeria of fertile land yields, instead of 1500 arrobas, 3000 or 4000, making 2660 or 3340 kilogrammes of sugar (blanco and quebrado) per hectare. In fixing on 1500 arrobas and estimating the case of sugar at 24 piastres, according to the price of the Havannah, we find that the hectare produces the value of 870 francs in sugar; and that of 288 francs in wheat, in the supposition of an octuple harvest, and the price of 100 kilogrammes of wheat being 18 francs. I have observed elsewhere that in this comparison of the two branches of cultivation it must not be forgotten that the cultivation of sugar requires great capital; for instance, at present 400,000 piastres for an annual production of 32,000 arrobas, or 368,000 kilogrammes, if this quantity be made in one single settlement. At Bengal, in watered lands, an acre (4044 square metres) renders 2300 kilogrammes of coarse sugar, making 5700 kilogrammes per hectare. If this fertility is common in lands of great extent we must not be surprised at the low price of sugar in the East Indies. The produce of a hectare is double that of the best soil in the West Indies and the price of a free Indian day-labourer is not one-third the price of the day-labour of a negro slave in the island of Cuba.
In Jamaica in 1825 a plantation of five hundred acres (or fifteen and a half caballerias), of which two hundred acres are cultivated in sugar-cane, yields, by the labour of two hundred slaves, one hundred oxen and fifty mules 2800 hundredweight, or 142,200 kilogrammes of sugar, and is computed to be worth, with its slaves, 43,000 pounds sterling. According to this estimate of Mr. Stewart, one hectare would yield 1760 kilogrammes of coarse sugar; for such is the quality of the sugar furnished for commerce at Jamaica. Reckoning in a great sugar-fabric of the Havannah 25 caballerias or 325 hectares for a produce of from 32,000 to 40,000 cases, we find 1130 or 1420 kilogrammes of refined sugar (blanco and quebrado) per hectare. This result agrees sufficiently with that of Jamaica, if we consider the loss sustained in the weight of sugar by refining, in converting the coarse sugar into azucar blanco y quebrado) or refined sugar. At San Domingo a square (3403 square toises = 1.29 hectare) is estimated at forty, and sometimes at sixty quintals: if we fix on 5000 pounds, we still find 1900 kilogrammes of coarse sugar per hectare. Supposing, as we ought to do when speaking of the produce of the whole island of Cuba, that, in soils of average fertility, the caballeria (at 13 hectares) yields 1500 arrobas of refined sugar (mixed with blanco and quebrado), or 1330 kilogrammes per hectare, it follows that 60,872 hectares, or nineteen five-fourths square sea leagues, (nearly a ninth of the extent of a department of France of middling size), suffice to produce the 440,000 cases of refined sugar furnished by the island of Cuba for its own consumption and for lawful and illicit exportation. It seems surprising that less than twenty square sea leagues should yield an annual produce of more than the value of fifty-two millions of francs (counting one case, at the Havannah, at the rate of twenty-four piastres). To furnish coarse sugar for the consumption of thirty millions of French (which is actually from fifty-six to sixty millions of kilogrammes) it requires within the tropics but nine and five-sixths square sea leagues cultivated with sugar-cane; and in temperate climates but thirty-seven and a half square sea leagues cultivated with beet-root. A hectare of good soil, sown or planted with beet-root, produces in France from ten to thirty thousand kilogrammes of beet-root. The mean fertility is 20,000 kilogrammes, which furnish 2 1/2 per cent, or five hundred kilogrammes of coarse sugar. Now, one hundred kilogrammes of that sugar yield fifty kilogrammes of refined sugar, thirty of sugar vergeoise, and twenty of muscovade; consequently, a hectare of beet-root produces 250 kilogrammes of refined sugar.
A short time before my arrival at the Havannah there had been sent from Germany some specimens of beet-root sugar which were said to menace the existence of the Sugar Islands in America. The planters had learned with alarm that it was a substance entirely similar to sugar-cane, but they flattered themselves that the high price of labour in Europe and the difficulty of separating the sugar fit for crystallization from so great a mass of vegetable pulp would render the operation on a grand scale little profitable. Chemistry has, since that period, succeeded in overcoming those difficulties; and, in the year 1812, France alone had more than two hundred beet-root sugar factories working with very unequal success and producing a million of kilogrammes of coarse sugar, that is, a fifty-eighth part of the actual consumption of sugar in France. Those two hundred factories are now reduced to fifteen or twenty, which yield a produce of 300,000 kilogrammes.* The inhabitants of the West Indies, well informed of the affairs of Europe, no longer fear beet-root, grapes, chesnuts, and mushrooms, the coffee of Naples nor the indigo of the south of France. Fortunately the improvement of the condition of the West India slaves does not depend on the success of these branches of European cultivation.
[* Although the actual price of cane-sugar not refined is 1 franc 50 cents the kilogramme, in the ports, the production of beetroot-sugar offers a still greater advantage in certain localities, for instance, in the vicinity of Arras. These establishments would be introduced in many other parts of France if the price of the sugar of the West Indies rose to 2 francs, or 2 francs 25 cents the kilogramme, and if the government laid no tax on the beetroot-sugar, to compensate the loss on the consumption of colonial sugar. The making of beetroot-sugar is especially profitable when combined with a general system of rural economy, with the improvement of the soil and the nourishment of cattle: it is not a cultivation independent of local circumstances, like that of the sugar-cane in the tropics.]
Previously to the year 1762 the island of Cuba did not furnish more commercial produce than the three least industrious and most neglected provinces with respect to cultivation, Veragua, the isthmus of Panama and Darien, do at present. A political event which appeared extremely unfortunate, the taking of the Havannah by the English, roused the public mind. The town was evacuated in 1784 and its subsequent efforts of industry date from that memorable period. The construction of new fortifications on a gigantic plan* threw a great deal of money suddenly into circulation; later the slave-trade became free and furnished hands for the sugar factories. Free trade with all the ports of Spain and occasionally with neutral states, the able administration of Don Luis de Las Casas, the establishment of the Consulado and the Patriotic Society, the destruction of the French colony of Saint Domingo,* and the rise in the price of sugar which was the natural consequence, the improvement in machines and ovens, due in great part to the refugees of Cape Francois, the more intimate connection formed between the proprietors of the sugar factories and the merchants of the Havannah, the great capital employed by the latter in agricultural establishments (sugar and coffee plantations), such have been successively the causes of the increasing prosperity of the island of Cuba, notwithstanding the conflict of the authorities, which serves to embarrass the progress of affairs.
[* It is affirmed that the construction of the fort of Cabana alone cost fourteen millions of piastres.]
[* In three successive attempts, in August 1791, June 1793, and October 1803. Above all the unfortunate and sanguinary expedition of Generals Leclerc and Rochambeau completed the destruction of the sugar factories of Saint Domingo.]
The greatest changes in the plantations of sugar-cane and in the sugar factories, took place from 1796 to 1800. First, mules were substituted (trapiches de mulas) for oxen (trapiches de bueyes); and afterwards hydraulic wheels were introduced (trapiches de agua), which the first conquistadores had employed at Saint Domingo; finally the action of steam-engines was tried at Ceibabo, at the expense of Count Jaruco y Mopex. There are now twenty-five of those machines in the different sugar mills of the island of Cuba. The culture of the sugar-cane of Otaheite in the meantime increased. Boilers of preparation (clarificadoras) were introduced and the reverberating furnaces better arranged. It must be said, to the honour of wealthy proprietors, that in a great number of plantations, a kind solicitude is manifested for sick slaves, for the introduction of negresses, and for the education of children.
The number of sugar factories (yngenios) in 1775 was 473 in the whole island; and in 1817 more than 780. Among the former, none produced the fourth part of the sugar now made in the yngenios of second rank; it is consequently not the number of factories that can afford an accurate idea of the progress of that branch of agricultural industry.
The first sugar-canes carefully planted on virgin soil yield a harvest during twenty to twenty-five years, after which they must be replanted every three years. There existed in 1804, at the Hacienda de Matamoros, a square (canaveral) worked during forty-five years. The most fertile soil for the production of sugar is now in the vicinity of Mariel and Guanajay. That variety of sugar-cane known by the name of Cana de Otahiti, recognised at a distance by a fresher green, has the advantage of furnishing, on the same extent of soil, one-fourth more juice, and a stem more woody, thicker, and consequently richer in combustible matter. The refiners (maestros de azucar), pretend that the vezou (guarapo) of the Cana de Otahiti is more easily worked, and yields more crystallized sugar by adding less lime or potass to the vezou. The South Sea sugar-cane furnishes, no doubt, after five or six years’ cultivation, the thinnest stubble, but the knots remain more distant from each other than in the Cana creolia or de la tierra. The apprehension at first entertained of the former degenerating by degrees into ordinary sugar-cane is happily not realized. The sugar-cane is planted in the island of Cuba in the rainy season, from July to October; and the harvest is gathered from February to May.
In proportion as by too rapid clearing the island has become unwooded, the sugar-houses have begun to want fuel. A little stalk (sugar-cane destitute of its juice) used to be employed to quicken the fire beneath the old cauldrons (tachos); but it is only since the introduction of reverberating furnaces by the emigrants of Saint Domingo that the attempt has been made to dispense altogether with wood and burn only refuse sugar-cane. In the old construction of furnaces and cauldrons, a tarea of wood, of one hundred and sixty cubic feet, is burnt to produce five arrobas of sugar, or, for a hundred kilogrammes of raw sugar, 278 cubic feet of the wood of the lemon and orange trees are required. In the reverberating furnaces of Saint Domingo a cart of refuse-cane of 495 cubic feet produced 640 pounds of coarse sugar, which make 158 cubic feet of refuse-cane for 100 kilogrammes of sugar. I attempted, during my stay at Guines, and especially at Rio Blanco, with the Count de Mopex, several new constructions, with the view of diminishing the expense of fuel, surrounding the focus with substances which do not powerfully conduct the heat, and thus diminish the sufferings of the slaves who keep up the fire. A long residence in the salt-producing districts of Europe, and the labours of practical halurgy, to which I have been devoted since my early youth, suggested to me the idea of those constructions, which have been imitated with some success. Cuvercles of wood, placed on clarificadoras, accelerated the evaporation, and led me to believe that a system of cuvercles and moveable frames, furnished with counter-weights, might extend to other cauldrons. This object merits further examination; but the quantity of vezou (guarapo) of the crystallized sugar extracted, and that which is destroyed, the fuel, the time and the pecuniary expense, must be carefully estimated.
An error, very general through Europe and one which influences opinion respecting the effects of the abolition of the slave-trade, is that in those West India islands called sugar colonies, the majority of the slaves are supposed to be employed in the production of sugar. The cultivation of the sugar-cane is no doubt a powerful incentive to the activity of the slave trade; but a very simple calculation suffices to prove that the total mass of slaves contained in the West Indies is nearly three times greater than the number employed in the production of sugar. I showed seven years ago that, if the 200,000 cases of sugar exported from the island of Cuba in 1812 were produced in the great establishments, less than 30,000 slaves would have sufficed for that kind of labour. It ought to be borne in mind for the interests of humanity that the evils of slavery weigh on a much greater number of individuals than agricultural labours require, even admitting, which I am very far from doing, that sugar, coffee, indigo and cotton can be cultivated only by slaves. At the island of Cuba it is generally supposed that one hundred and fifty negroes are required to produce 1000 cases (184,000 kilogrammes) of refined sugar; or, in round numbers, a little more than 1200 kilogrammes, by the labour of each adult slave. The production of 440,000 cases would consequently require only 66,000 slaves. If we add 36,000 to that number for the cultivation of coffee and tobacco in the island of Cuba, we find that about 100,000 of the 260,000 slaves now there would suffice for the three great branches of colonial industry on which the activity of commerce depends.
The cultivation of coffee takes its date, like the improved construction of cauldrons in the sugar houses, from the arrival of the emigrants of San Domingo, especially after the years 1796 and 1798. A hectare yields 860 kilogrammes, the produce of 3500 plants. The province of the Havannah reckoned:
In 1800 60 cafetales.
In 1817 779 cafetales.
The coffee tree being a shrub that yields a good harvest only in the fourth year, the exportation of coffee from the port of the Havannah was, in 1804, only 50,000 arrobas. It rose:
In 1809 to 320,000 arrobas.
In 1815 to 918,263 arrobas.
In 1815, when the price of coffee was fifteen piastres the quintal, the value of the exportation from the Havannah exceeded the sum of 3,443,000 piastres. In 1823, the exportation from the port of Matanzas was 84,440 arrobas; so that it seems not doubtful that, in years of medium fertility, the total exportation of the island, lawful and contraband, is more than fourteen millions of kilogrammes.
From this calculation it results that the exportation of coffee from the island of Cuba is greater than that from Java, estimated by Mr. Crawfurd, in 1820, at 190,000 piculs, 11 4/5 millions of kilogrammes. It likewise exceeds the exportation from Jamaica, which amounted, in 1823, according to the registers of the custom-house, only to 169,734 hundredweight, or 8,622,478 kilogrammes. In the same year Great Britain received, from all the English islands, 194,820 hundredweight; or 9,896,856 kilogrammes; which proves that Jamaica only produced six-sevenths. Guadaloupe sent, in 1810, to the mother country, 1,017,190 kilogrammes; Martinico, 671,336 kilogrammes. At Hayti, where the production of coffee before the French revolution was 37,240,000 kilogrammes, Port-au-Prince exported, in 1824, only 91,544,000 kilogrammes. It appears that the total exportation of coffee from the archipelago of the West Indies, by lawful means only, now amounts to more than thirty-eight millions of kilogrammes; nearly five times the consumption of France, which, from 1820 to 1823, was, on the yearly average, 8,198,000 kilogrammes. The consumption of Great Britain is yet* only 3 1/2 millions of kilogrammes.
[* Before the year 1807, when the tax on coffee was reduced, the consumption of Great Britain was not 8000 hundredweight (less than 1/2 million of kilogrammes); in 1809, it rose to 45,071 hundredweight; in 1810, to 49,147 hundredweight; in 1823, to 71,000 hundredweight, in 1824, to 66,000 hundredweight (or 3,552,800 kilogrammes.]
The exportation of 1814 was 60 1/2 millions of kilogrammes, which we may suppose was at that period nearly the consumption of the whole of Europe. Great Britain (taking that denomination in its true sense, as denoting only England and Scotland) now consumes nearly two-thirds less coffee and three times more sugar than France.
The price of sugar at the Havannah is always by the arroba of 25 Spanish pounds (or 11.49 kilogrammes), and the price of coffee by the quintal (or 45.97 kilogrammes). The latter has been known to vary from 4 to 30 piastres; it even fell, in 1808, below 24 reals. The price of 1815 and 1819 was between 13 and 17 piastres the quintal; coffee is now at 12 piastres. It is probable that the cultivation of coffee scarcely employs in the whole island of Cuba 28,000 slaves, who produce, on the yearly average, 305,000 Spanish quintals (14 millions of kilogrammes), or, according to the present value, 3,660,000 piastres; while 66,000 negroes produce 440,000 cases (81 millions of kilogrammes) of sugar, which, at the price of 24 piastres, is worth 10,560,000 piastres. It results from this calculation that a slave now produces the value of 130 piastres of coffee, and 160 piastres of sugar. It is almost useless to observe that these relations vary with the price of the two articles, of which the variations are often opposite and that, in calculations which may throw some light on agriculture in the tropical region, I comprehend in the same point of view interior consumption, exportation lawful and contraband.
The tobacco of the island of Cuba is celebrated throughout Europe. The custom of smoking, borrowed from the natives of Hayti, was introduced into Europe about the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth century. It was generally hoped that the cultivation of tobacco, freed from an oppressive monopoly, would be to the Havannah a very profitable object of commerce. The good intentions displayed by the government in abolishing, within six years, the Factoria de tabacos, have not been attended by the improvement which was expected in that branch of industry. The cultivators want capital, the farms have become extremely dear, and the predilection for the cultivation of coffee is prejudicial to that of tobacco.
The oldest information we possess respecting the quantity of tobacco which the island of Cuba has thrown into the magazines of the mother country go back to 1748. According to the Abbe Raynal, a much more exact writer than is generally believed, that quantity, from 1748 to 1753 (average year) was 75,000 arrobas. From 1789 to 1794 the produce of the island amounted annually to 250,000 arrobas; but from that period to 1803 the increased price of land, the attention given exclusively to the coffee plantations and the sugar factories, little vexations in the exercise of the royal monopoly (estanco), and impediments in the way of export trade, have progressively diminished the produce by more than one-half. The total produce of tobacco in the island is, however, believed to have been, from 1822 to 1825, again from 300,000 to 400,000 arrobas.
In good years, when the harvest rose to 350,000 arrobas of leaves, 128,000 arrobas were prepared for the Peninsula, 80,000 for the Havannah, 9200 for Peru, 6000 for Panama, 3000 for Buenos Ayres, 2240 for Mexico, and 1000 for Caracas and Campeachy. To complete the sum of 315,000,000 (for the harvest loses 10 per cent of its weight in merma y aberias, during the preparation and the transport) we must suppose that 80,000 arrobas were consumed in the interior of the island (en los campos), whither the monopoly and the taxes did not extend. The maintenance of 120 slaves and the expense of the manufacture amounted only to 12,000 piastres annually; the persons employed in the factoria cost 54,100 piastres. The value of 128,000 arrobas, which in good years was sent to Spain, either in cigars or in snuff (rama y polvos), often exceeded 5,000,000 piastres, according to the common price of Spain. It seems surprising to see that the statements of exportation from the Havannah (documents published by the Consulado) mark the exportations for 1816, at only 3400 arrobas; for 1823, only 13,900 arrobas of tabaco en rama, and 71,000 pounds of tabaco torcida, estimated together, at the custom-house, at 281,000 piastres; for 1825, only 70,302 pounds of cigars, and 167,100 pounds of tobacco in leaves; but it must be remembered that no branch of contraband is more active than that of cigars. Although the tobacco of the Vuelta de abaxo is the most famous, a considerable exportation takes place in the eastern part of the island. I rather doubt the total exportation of 200,000 boxes of cigars (value 2,000,000 piastres) as stated by several travellers during latter years. If the harvests were thus abundant, why should the island of Cuba receive tobacco from the United States for the consumption of the lower class of people?
I shall say nothing of the cotton, the indigo, or the wheat of the island of Cuba. These branches of colonial industry are of comparatively little importance; and the proximity of the United States and Guatimala renders competition almost impossible. The state of Salvador, belonging to the Confederation of Central America, now throws 12,000 tercios annually, or 1,800,000 pounds of indigo into trade; an exportation which amounts to more than 2,000,000 piastres. The cultivation of wheat succeeds (to the great astonishment of travellers who have passed through Mexico), near the Quatro Villas, at small heights above the level of the ocean, though in general it is very limited. The flour is fine; but colonial productions are more tempting, and the plains of the United States — that Crimea of the New World — yield harvests too abundant for the commerce of native cereals to be efficaciously protected by the prohibitive system of the custom-house, in an island near the mouth of the Mississippi and the Delaware. Analogous difficulties oppose the cultivation of flax, hemp, and the vine. Possibly the inhabitants of Cuba are themselves ignorant of the fact that, in the first years of the conquest by the Spaniards, wine was made in their island of wild grapes.* This kind of vine, peculiar to America, has given rise to the general error that the true Vitis vinifera is common to the two continents. The Parras monteses which yields the somewhat sour wine of the island of Cuba, was probably gathered on the Vitis tiliaefolia which Mr. Willdenouw has described from our herbals. In no part of the northern hemisphere has the vine hitherto been cultivated with the view of producing wine south of the 27° 48′, or the latitude of the island of Ferro, one of the Canaries, and of 29° 2′, or the latitude of Bushire in Persia.
[* De muchas parras monteses con ubas se ha cogido vino, aunque algo agrio. [From several grape-bearing vines which grow in the mountains, they extract a kind of wine; but it is very acid.] Herera Dec. 1 page 233. Gabriel de Cabrera found a tradition at Cuba similar to that which the people of Semitic race have of Noah experiencing for the first time the effect of a fermented liquor. He adds that the idea of two races of men, one naked, another clothed, is linked to the American tradition. Has Cabrera, preoccupied by the rites of the Hebrews, imperfectly interpreted the words of the natives, or, as seems more probable, has he added something to the analogies of the woman-serpent, the conflict of two brothers, the cataclysm of water, the raft of Coxcox, the exploring bird, and many other things that teach us incontestably that there existed a community of antique traditions between the nations of the two worlds? Views of the Cordilleras and Monuments of America.]
This is not the produce of native bees (the Melipones of Latreille), but of bees brought from Europe by way of Florida. The trade in wax has only become important since 1772. The exportation of the whole island, which from 1774 to 1779 was only 2700 arrobas (average year), was estimated in 1803, including contraband, at 42,700 arrobas, of which 25,000 were destined for Vera Cruz. In the churches of Mexico there is a great consumption of Cuban wax. The price varies from sixteen to twenty piastres the arroba.
Trinidad and the small port of Baracoa also carry on a considerable trade in wax, furnished by the almost uncultivated regions on the east of the island. In the proximity of the sugar-factories many bees perish of inebriety from the molasses, of which they are extremely fond. In general the production of wax diminishes in proportion as the cultivation of the land augments. The exportation of wax, according to the present price, amounts to about 500,000 of piastres.
It has already been observed that the importance of the commerce of the island of Cuba depends not solely on the riches of its productions, the wants of the population in the articles and merchandize of Europe, but also in great part on the favourable position of the port of the Havannah. This port is situated at the entrance of the Gulf of Mexico, where the high roads of the commercial nations of the old and the new worlds cross each other. It was remarked by the Abbe Raynal, at a period when agriculture and industry were in their infancy, and scarcely threw into commerce the value of 2,000,000 piastres in sugar and tobacco, that the island of Cuba alone might be worth a kingdom to Spain. There seems to have been something prophetic in those memorable words; and since the parent state has lost Mexico, Peru and so many other colonies declared independent, they demand the serious consideration of statesmen who are called upon to discuss the political interests of the Peninsula.
The island of Cuba, to which for a long time the court of Madrid wisely granted great freedom of trade, exports, lawfully and by contraband, of its own native productions, in sugar, coffee, tobacco, wax and skins, to the value of more than 14,000,000 piastres; which is about one-third less than the value of the precious metals furnished by Mexico at the period of the greatest prosperity of its mines.* It may be said that the Havannah and Vera Cruz are to the rest of America what New York is to the United States. The tonnage of 1000 to 1200 merchant ships which annually enter the port of the Havannah, amounts (excluding the small coasting-vessels), to 150,000 or 170,000 tons.* In time of peace from 120 to 150 ships of war are frequently seen at anchor at the Havannah. From 1815 to 1819 the productions registered at the custom-house of that port only (sugar, rum, molasses, coffee, wax and butter) amounted, on the average, to the value of 11,245,000 piastres per annum. In 1823 the exportation registered two-thirds less than their actual price, amounted (deducting 1,179,000 piastres in specie) to more than 12,500,000 piastres. It is probable that the importations of the whole island (lawful and contraband), estimated at the real price of the articles, the merchandize and the slaves, amount at present to 15,000,000 or 16,000,000 piastres, of which scarcely 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 are re-exported. The Havannah purchases from abroad far beyond its own wants, and exchanges its colonial articles for the productions of the manufactures of Europe, to sell a part of them at Vera Cruz, Truxillo, Guayra, and Carthagena.
[* In 1805 gold and silver specie was struck at Mexico to the value of 27,165,888 piastres; but, taking an average of ten years of political tranquillity, we find from 1800 to 1810 scarcely 24 1/2 million of piastres.]
[* In 1816 the tonnage of the commerce of New York was 299,617 tons; that of Boston, 143,420 tons. The amount of tonnage is not always an exact measure of the wealth of commerce. The countries which export rice, flour, hewn wood and cotton require more capaciousness than the tropical regions of which the productions (cochineal, indigo, sugar and coffee) are of little bulk, although of considerable value.]
On comparing, in the commercial tables of the Havannah, the great value of merchandise imported, with the little value of merchandise re-exported, one is surprised at the vast internal consumption of a country containing only 325,000 whites and 130,000 free men of colour. We find, in estimating the different articles, according to the real current prices: in cotton and linen (bretanas, platillas, lienzos y hilo), two and a half to three millions of piastres; in tissues of cotton (zarazas musulinas), one million of piastres; in silk (rasos y generos de seda), 400,000 piastres; and in linen and woollen tissues, 220,000 piastres. The wants of the island, in European tissues, registered as exported to the port of the Havannah only, consequently exceeded, in these latter years, from four millions to four and a half millions of piastres. To these importations of the Havannah we must add: hardware and furniture, more than half a million of piastres; iron and steel, 380,000 piastres; planks and great timber, 400,000 piastres; Castile soap, 300,000 piastres. With respect to the importation of provisions and drinks to the Havannah, it appears to me to be well worthy the attention of those who would know the real state of those societies which are called sugar or slave colonies. Such is the composition of those societies established on the most fruitful soil which nature can furnish for the nourishment of man, such the direction of agricultural labours and industry in the West Indies, that, in the best climate of the equinoctial region, the population would want subsistence but for the freedom and activity of external commerce. I do not speak of the introduction of wines at the port of the Havannah, which amounted (according to the registers of the custom-house), in 1803, to 40,000 barrels; in 1823, to 15,000 pipas and 17,000 barrels, to the value of 1,200,000 piastres; nor of the introduction of 6000 barrels of brandy from Spain and Holland, and 113,000 barrels (1,864,000 piastres) of flour. These wines, liquors and flour are consumed by the opulent part of the nation. The cereals of the United States have become articles of absolute necessity in a zone where maize, manioc and bananas were long preferred to every other amylaceous food. The development of a luxury altogether European, cannot be complained of amidst the prosperity and increasing civilization of the Havannah; but, along with the introduction of the flour, wine, and spirituous liquors of Europe, we find, in the year 1816, 1 1/2millions of piastres; and, in the year 1823, 3 1/2 millions for salt meat, rice and dried vegetables. In the last mentioned year, the importation of rice was 323,000 arrobas; and the importation of dried and salt meat (tasajo), for the slaves, 465,000 arrobas.
The scarcity of necessary articles of subsistence characterizes a part of the tropical climates where the imprudent activity of Europeans has inverted the order of nature: it will diminish in proportion as the inhabitants, more enlightened respecting their true interests, and discouraged by the low price of colonial produce, will vary the cultivation, and give free scope to all the branches of rural economy. The principles of that narrow policy which guides the government of very small islands, inhabited by men who desert the soil whenever they are sufficiently enriched, cannot be applicable to a country of an extent nearly equal to that of England, covered with populous cities, and where the inhabitants, established from father to son during ages, far from regarding themselves as strangers to the American soil, cherish it as their own country. The population of the island of Cuba, which in fifty years will perhaps exceed a million, may open by its own consumption an immense field to native industry. If the slave-trade should cease altogether, the slaves will pass by degrees into the class of free men; and society, being reconstructed, without suffering any of the violent convulsions of civil dissension, will follow the path which nature has traced for all societies that become numerous and enlightened. The cultivation of the sugar-cane and of coffee will not be abandoned; but it will no longer remain the principal basis of national existence than the cultivation of cochineal in Mexico, of indigo in Guatimala, and of cacao in Venezuela. A free, intelligent and agricultural population will progressively succeed a slave population, destitute of foresight and industry. Already the capital which the commerce of the Havannah has placed within the last twenty-five years in the hands of cultivators, has begun to change the face of the country; and to that power, of which the action is constantly increasing, another will be necessarily joined, inseparable from the progress of industry and national wealth — the development of human intelligence. On these united powers depend the future destinies of the metropolis of the West Indies.
In reference to what has been said respecting external commerce, I may quote the author of a memoir which I have often mentioned, and who describes the real situation of the island. “At the Havannah, the effects of accumulated wealth begin to be felt; the price of provisions has been doubled in a small number of years. Labour is so dear that a bozal negro, recently brought from the coast of Africa, gains by the labour of his hands (without having learned any trade) from four to five reals (two francs thirteen sous to three francs five sous) a day. The negroes who follow mechanical trades, however common, gain from five to six francs. The patrician families remain fixed to the soil: a man who has enriched himself does not return to Europe taking with him his capital. Some families are so opulent that Don Matheo de Pedroso, who died lately, left in landed property above two millions of piastres. Several commercial houses of the Havannah purchase, annually, from ten to twelve thousand cases of sugar, for which they pay at the rate of from 350,000 to 420,000 piastres.” (De la situacion presente de Cuba in manuscript.) Such was the state of public wealth at the end of 1800. Twenty-five years of increasing prosperity have elapsed since that period, and the population of the island is nearly doubled. The exportation of registered sugar had not, in any year before 1800, attained the extent of 170,000 cases (31,280,000 kilogrammes); in these latter times it has constantly surpassed 200,000 cases, and even attained 250,000 and 300,000 cases (forty-six to fifty-five millions of kilogrammes). A new branch of industry has sprung up (that of plantations of the coffee tree) which furnishes an exportation of the value of three millions and a half of piastres. Industry, guided by a greater mass of knowledge, has been better directed. The system of taxation that weighed on national industry and exterior commerce has been made lighter since 1791, and been improved by successive changes. Whenever the mother-country, mistaking her own interests, has attempted to make a retrograde step, courageous voices have arisen not only among the Havaneros, but often among the Spanish rulers, in defence of the freedom of American commerce. A new channel has recently been opened for capital by the enlightened zeal and patriotic views of the intendant Don Claudio Martinez de Pinillos, and the commerce of entrepot has been granted to the Havannah on the most advantageous conditions.
The difficult and expensive interior communications of the island render its own productions dearer at the ports, notwithstanding the short distance between the northern and southern coasts. A project of canalization which unites the double advantage of connecting the Havannah and Batabano by a navigable line, and diminishing the high price of the transport of native produce, merits here a special mention. The idea of the Canal of Guines had been conceived for more than half a century with the view of furnishing timber at a more moderate price for ship-building in the arsenal of the Havannah. In 1796 the Count de Jaruco y Mopox, an enterprising man, who had acquired great influence by his connection with the Prince of the Peace, undertook to revive this project. The survey was made in 1798 by two very able engineers, Don Francisco and Don Felix Lemaur. These officers ascertained that the canal in its whole development would be nineteen leagues long (5000 varas or 4150 metres), that the point of partition would be at the Taverna del Rey, and that it would require nineteen locks on the north, and twenty-one on the south. The distance from the Havannah to Batabano is only eight and a half sea-leagues. The canal of Guines would be very useful for the transport of agricultural productions by steam-boats,* because its course would be in proximity with the best cultivated lands. The roads are nowhere worse in the rainy season than in this part of the island, where the soil is of friable limestone, little fitted for the construction of solid roads. The transport of sugar from Guines to the Havannah, a distance of twelve leagues, now costs one piastre per quintal. Besides the advantage of facilitating internal communications, the canal would also give great importance to the surgidero of Batabano, into which small vessels laden with salt provisions (tasajo) from Venezuela, would enter without being obliged to double Cape Saint Antonio. In the bad season and in time of war, when corsairs are cruising between Cape Catoche, Tortugas and Mariel, the passage from the Spanish main to the island of Cuba would be shortened by entering, not at the Havannah, but at some port of the southern coast. The cost of constructing the canal de Guines was estimated in 1796 at one million, or 1,200,000 piastres: it is now thought that the expense would amount to more than one million and a half. The productions which might annually pass the canal have been estimated at 75,000 cases of sugar, 25,000 arrobas of coffee, and 8000 bocoyes of molasses and rum. According to the first project, that of 1796, it was intended to link the canal with the small river of Guines, to be brought from the Ingenio de la Holanda to Quibican, three leagues south of Bejucal and Santa Rosa. This idea is now relinquished, the Rio de los Guines losing its waters towards the east in the irrigation of the savannahs of Hato de Guanamon. Instead of carrying the canal east of the Barrio del Cerro and south of the fort of Atares, in the bay of the Havannah, it was proposed at first to make use of the bed of the Chorrera or Rio Armendaris, from Calabazal to the Husillo, and then of the Zanja Real, not only for conveying the boats to the centre of the arrabales and of the city of the Havannah, but also for furnishing water to the fountains which require to be supplied during three months of the year. I visited several times, with MM. Lemaur, the plains through which this line of navigation is intended to pass. The utility of the project is incontestable if in times of great drought a sufficient quantity of water can be brought to the point of partition.
[* Steam-boats are established from the Havannah to Matanzas, and from the Havannah to Mariel. The government granted to Don Juan O’Farrill (March 24th, 1819) a privilege on the barcos de vapor.]
At the Havannah, as in every place where commerce and the wealth it produces increase rapidly, complaints are heard of the prejudicial influence exercised by them on ancient manners. We cannot here stop to compare the first state of the island of Cuba, when covered with pasturage, before the taking of the capital by the English, and its present condition, since it has become the metropolis of the West Indies; nor to throw into the balance the candour and simplicity of manners of an infant society, against the manners that belong to the development of an advanced civilization. The spirit of commerce, leading to the love of wealth, no doubt brings nations to depreciate what money cannot obtain. But the state of human things is happily such that what is most desirable, most noble, most free in man, is owing only to the inspirations of the soul, to the extent and amelioration of its intellectual faculties. Were the thirst of riches to take absolute possession of every class of society, it would infallibly produce the evil complained of by those who see with regret what they call the preponderance of the industrious system; but the increase of commerce, by multiplying the connections between nations, by opening an immense sphere to the activity of the mind, by pouring capital into agriculture, and creating new wants by the refinement of luxury, furnishes a remedy against the supposed dangers.
The increase of the agricultural prosperity of the island of Cuba and the influence of the accumulation of wealth on the value of importations, have raised the public revenue in these latter years to four millions and a half, perhaps five millions of piastres. The custom-house of the Havannah, which before 1794 yielded less than 600,000 piastres, and from 1797 to 1800, 1,900,000 piastres, pours into the treasury, since the declaration of free trade, a revenue (importe liquido) of more than 3,100,000 piastres.*
[* The custom-house of Port-au-Prince, at Hayti, produced in 1825, the sum of 1,655,764 piastres; that of Buenos Ayres, from 1819 to 1821, average year, 1,655,000 piastres. See Centinela de La Plata, September 1822 Number 8; Argos de Buenos Ayres Number 85.]
The island of Cuba as yet contains only one forty-second part of the population of France; and one half of its inhabitants, being in the most abject indigence, consume but little. Its revenue is nearly equal to that of the Republic of Columbia, and it exceeds the revenue of all the custom-houses of the United States* before the year 1795, when that confederation had 4,500,000 inhabitants, while the island of Cuba contained only 715,000. The principal source of the public revenue of this fine colony is the custom-house, which alone produces above three-fifths, and amply suffices for all the wants of the internal administration and military defence. If in these latter years, the expense of the general treasury of the Havannah amounted to more than four millions of piastres, this increase of expense is solely owing to the obstinate struggle maintained between the mother country and her freed colonies. Two millions of piastres were employed to pay the land and sea forces which poured back from the American continent, by the Havannah, on their way to the Peninsula. As long as Spain, unmindful of her real interests, refuses to recognize the independence of the New Republics, the island of Cuba, menaced by Columbia and the Mexican Confederation, must support a military force for its external defence, which ruins the colonial finances. The Spanish naval force stationed in the port of the Havannah generally costs above 650,000 piastres. The land forces require nearly one million and a half of piastres. Such a state of things cannot last indefinitely if the Peninsula do not relieve the burden that presses upon the colony.
[* The custom-houses of the United States, which yielded in 1801 to 1808 sixteen millions of dollars, produced in 1815 but 7,282,000.]
From 1789 to 1797 the produce of the custom-house at the Havannah never rose to more than 700,000 piastres. In 1814 it was 1,855,117. From 1815 to 1819 the royal taxes in the port of the Havannah amounted to 11,575,460 piastres; total 18,284,807 piastres; or, average year, 3,657,000 piastres, of which the municipal taxes formed 0.36.
The public revenue of the Administracion general de Rentas of the jurisdiction of Havannah amounted:
in 1820 to 3,631,273 piastres.
in 1821 to 3,277,639 piastres.
in 1822 to 3,378,228 piastres.
The royal and municipal taxes of importation at the custom-house of the Havannah in 1823 were 2,734,563 piastres.
The total amount of the revenue of the Havannah in 1824 was 3,025,300 piastres.
In 1825 the revenue of the town and jurisdiction of the Havannah was 3,350,300 piastres.
These partial statements show that from 1789 to 1824 the public revenue of Cuba has been increased sevenfold.
According to the estimates of the Cajas matrices, the public revenue in 1822 was, in the province of the Havannah alone, 4,311,862 piastres; which arose from the custom-house (3,127,918 piastres), from the ramos de directa entrada, as lottery, tithes, etc. (601,808 piastres), and anticipations on the charges of the Consulado and the Deposito (581,978 piastres). The expenditure in the same year, for the island of Cuba, was 2,732,738 piastres, and for the succour destined to maintain the struggle with the continental colonies declared independent, 1,362,029 piastres. In the first class of expenditure we find 1,355,798 piastres for the subsistence of the military forces kept up for the defence of the Havannah and the neighbouring places; and 648,908 piastres for the royal navy stationed in the port of the Havannah. In the second class of expense foreign to the local administration we find 1,115,672 piastres for the pay of 4234 soldiers who, after having evacuated Mexico, Columbia and other parts of the Continent formerly Spanish possessions, passed by the Havannah to return to Spain; 164,000 piastres is the cost of the defence of the castle of San Juan de Ulloa.
I here terminate the Political Essay on the island of Cuba, in which I have traced the state of that important Spanish possession as it now is. My object has been to throw light on facts and give precision to ideas by the aid of comparisons and statistical tables. That minute investigation of facts is desirable at a moment when, on the one hand enthusiasm exciting to benevolent credulity, and on the other animosities menacing the security of the new republics, have given rise to the most vague and erroneous statements. I have as far as possible abstained from all reasoning on future chances, and on the probability of the changes which external politics may produce in the situation of the West Indies. I have merely examined what regards the organization of human society; the unequal partition of rights and of the enjoyments of life; the threatening dangers which the wisdom of the legislator and the moderation of free men may ward off, whatever be the form of the government. It is for the traveller who has been an eyewitness of the suffering and the degradation of human nature to make the complaints of the unfortunate reach the ear of those by whom they can be relieved. I observed the condition of the blacks in countries where the laws, the religion and the national habits tend to mitigate their fate; yet I retained, on quitting America, the same horror of slavery which I had felt in Europe. In vain have writers of ability, seeking to veil barbarous institutions by ingenious turns of language, invented the expressions negro peasants of the West Indies, black vassalage, and patriarchal protection: that is profaning the noble qualities of the mind and the imagination, for the purpose of exculpating by illusory comparisons or captious sophisms excesses which afflict humanity, and which prepare the way for violent convulsions. Do they think that they have acquired the right of putting down commiseration, by comparing* the condition of the negroes with that of the serfs of the middle ages, and with the state of oppression to which some classes are still subjected in the north and east of Europe? These comparisons, these artifices of language, this disdainful impatience with which even a hope of the gradual abolition of slavery is repulsed as chimerical, are useless arms in the times in which we live. The great revolutions which the continent of America and the Archipelago of the West Indies have undergone since the commencement of the nineteenth century, have had their influence on public feeling and public reason, even in countries where slavery exists and is beginning to be modified. Many sensible men, deeply interested in the tranquillity of the sugar and slave islands, feel that by a liberal understanding among the proprietors, and by judicious measures adopted by those who know the localities, they might emerge from a state of danger and uneasiness which indolence and obstinacy serve only to increase.
[* Such comparisons do not satisfy those secret partisans of the slave trade who try to make light of the miseries of the black race, and to resist every emotion those miseries awaken. The permanent condition of a caste founded on barbarous laws and institutions is often confounded with the excesses of a power temporarily exercised on individuals. Thus Mr. Bolingbroke, who lived seven years at Demerara and who visited the West India Islands, observes that “on board an English ship of war, flogging is more frequent than in the plantations of the English colonies.” He adds “that in general the negroes are but little flogged, but that very reasonable means of correction have been imagined, such as making them take boiling soup strongly peppered, or obliging them to drink, with a very small spoon, a solution of Glauber-salts.” Mr. Bolingbroke regards the slave-trade as a universal benefit; and he is persuaded that if negroes who have enjoyed, during twenty years, all the comforts of slave life at Demerara, were permitted to return to the coast of Africa, they would effect recruiting on a large scale, and bring whole nations to the English possessions. Voyage to Demerara, 1807. Such is the firm and frank profession of faith of a planter; yet Mr. Bolingbroke, as several passages of his book prove, is a moderate man, full of benevolent intentions towards the slaves.]
Slavery is no doubt the greatest evil that afflicts human nature, whether we consider the slave torn from his family in his native country and thrown into the hold of a slave ship,* or as making part of a flock of black men, parked on the soil of the West Indies; but for individuals there are degrees of suffering and privation. How great is the difference in the condition of the slave who serves in the house of a rich family at the Havannah or at Kingston, or one who works for himself, giving his master but a daily retribution, and that of the slave attached to a sugar estate! The threats employed to correct an obstinate negro mark this scale of human privations. The coachman is menaced with the coffee plantation; and the slave working on the latter is menaced with the sugar house. The negro, who with his wife inhabits a separate hut, whose heart is warmed by those feelings of affection which for the most part characterize the African race, finds that after his labour some care is taken of him amidst his indigent family, is in a position not to be compared with that of the insulated slave lost in the mass. This diversity of condition escapes the notice of those who have not had the spectacle of the West Indies before their eyes. Owing to the progressive amelioration of the state even of the captive caste in the island of Cuba, the luxury of the masters and the possibility of gain by their work, have drawn more than eighty thousand slaves to the towns; and the manumission of them, favoured by the wisdom of the laws, is become so active as to have produced, at the present period, more than 130,000 free men of colour. By considering the individual position of each class, by recompensing, by the decreasing scale of privations, intelligence, love of labour and the domestic virtues, the colonial administration will find the best means of improving the condition of the blacks. Philanthropy does not consist in giving a little more salt-fish, and some fewer lashes: the real amelioration of the captive caste ought to extend over the whole moral and physical position of man.
[* “If the slaves are whipped,” said one of the witnesses before the Parliamentary Committee of 1789, “to make them dance on the deck of a slave ship — if they are forced to sing in chorus; ‘Messe, messe, mackerida,’ [how gaily we live among the whites], this only proves the care we take of the health of those men.” This delicate attention reminds me of the description of an auto-da-fe in my possession. In that curious document a boast is made of the prodigality with which refreshments are distributed to the condemned, and of the staircase which the inquisitors have had erected in the interior of the pile for the accommodation of the relazados (the relapsed culprits.)]
The impulse may be given by those European governments which have a right comprehension of human dignity, and who know that whatever is unjust bears with it a germ of destruction; but this impulse, it is melancholy to add, will be powerless if the union of the planters, if the colonial assemblies or legislatures, fail to adopt the same views and to act by a well-concerted plan, having for its ultimate aim the cessation of slavery in the West Indies. Till then it will be in vain to register the strokes of the whip, to diminish the number that may be given at one time, to require the presence of witnesses and to appoint protectors of slaves; all these regulations, dictated by the most benevolent intentions, are easily eluded: the isolated position of the plantations renders their execution impossible. They pre-suppose a system of domestic inquisition incompatible with what is understood in the colonies by the phrase established rights. The state of slavery cannot be altogether peaceably ameliorated except by the simultaneous action of the free men (white men and coloured) residing in the West Indies; by colonial assemblies and legislatures; by the influence of those who, enjoying great moral consideration among their countrymen and acquainted with the localities, know how to vary the means of improvement conformably with the manners, habits, and the position of every island. In preparing the way for the accomplishment of this task, which ought to embrace a great part of the archipelago of the West Indies, it may be useful to cast a retrospective glance on the events by which the freedom of a considerable part of the human race was obtained in Europe in the middle ages. In order to ameliorate without commotion new institutions must be made, as it were, to rise out of those which the barbarism of centuries has consecrated. It will one day seem incredible that until the year 1826 there existed no law in the Great Antilles to prevent the sale of young infants and their separation from their parents, or to prohibit the degrading custom of marking the negroes with a hot iron, merely to enable these human cattle to be more easily recognized. Enact laws to obviate the possibility of a barbarous outrage; fix, in every sugar estate, the proportion between the least number of negresses and that of the labouring negroes; grant liberty to every slave who has served fifteen years, to every negress who has reared four or five children; set them free on the condition of working a certain number of days for the profit of the plantation; give the slaves a part of the net produce, to interest them in the increase of agricultural riches;* fix a sum on the budget of the public funds, destined for the ransom of slaves, and the amelioration of their condition — such are the most urgent objects for colonial legislation.
[* General Lafayette, whose name is linked with all that promises to contribute to the liberty of man and the happiness of mankind, conceived, in the year 1785, the project of purchasing a settlement at Cayenne, and to divide it among the blacks by whom it was cultivated and in whose favour the proprietor renounced for himself and his descendants all benefit whatever. He had interested in this noble enterprise the priests of the Mission of the Holy Ghost, who themselves possessed lands in French Guiana. A letter from Marshal de Castries, dated 6th June, 1785, proves that the unfortunate Louis XVI, extending his beneficent intentions to the blacks and free men of colour, had ordered similar experiments to be made at the expense of Government. M. de Richeprey, who was appointed by M. de Lafayette to superintend the partition of the lands among the blacks, died from the effects of the climate at Cayenne.]
The Conquest on the continent of Spanish America and the slave-trade in the West Indies, in Brazil, and in the southern parts of the United States, have brought together the most heterogeneous elements of population. This strange mixture of Indians, whites, negroes, mestizos, mulattoes and zambos is accompanied by all the perils which violent and disorderly passion can engender, at those critical periods when society, shaken to its very foundations, begins a new era. At those junctures, the odious principle of the Colonial System, that of security, founded on the hostility of castes, and prepared during ages, has burst forth with violence. Fortunately the number of blacks has been so inconsiderable in the new states of the Spanish continent that, with the exception of the cruelties exercised in Venezuela, where the royalist party armed their slaves, the struggle between the independents and the soldiers of the mother country was not stained by the vengeance of the captive population. The free men of colour (blacks, mulattoes and mestizoes) have warmly espoused the national cause; and the copper-coloured race, in its timid distrust and passiveness, has taken no part in movements from which it must profit in spite of itself. The Indians, long before the revolution, were poor and free agriculturists; isolated by their language and manners they lived apart from the whites. If, in contempt of Spanish laws, the cupidity of the corregidores and the tormenting system of the missionaries often restricted their liberty, that state of vexatious oppression was far different from personal slavery like that of the slavery of the blacks, or of the vassalage of the peasantry in the Sclavonian part of Europe. It is the small number of blacks, it is the liberty of the aboriginal race, of which America has preserved more than eight millions and a half without mixture of foreign blood, that characterizes the ancient continental possessions of Spain, and renders their moral and political situation entirely different from that of the West Indies, where, by the disproportion between the free men and the slaves, the principles of the Colonial System have been developed with more energy. In the West Indian archipelago as in Brazil (two portions of America which contain near 3,200,000 slaves) the fear of [?] among the blacks, and the perils that surround the whites, have been hitherto the most powerful causes of the security of the mother countries and of the maintenance of the Portuguese dynasty. Can this security, from its nature, be of long duration? Does it justify the inertness of governments who neglect to remedy the evil while it is yet time? I doubt this. When, under the influence of extraordinary circumstances, alarm is mitigated, when countries in which the accumulation of slaves has produced in society the fatal mixture of heterogeneous elements may be led, perhaps unwillingly, into an exterior struggle, civil dissensions will break forth in all their violence and European families, innocent of an order of things which they have had no share in creating, will be exposed to the most imminent dangers.
We can never sufficiently praise the legislative wisdom of the new republics of Spanish America which, since their birth, have been seriously intent on the total extinction of slavery. That vast portion of the earth has, in this respect, an immense advantage over the southern part of the United States, where the whites, during the struggle with England, established liberty for their own profit, and where the slave population, to the number of 1,600,000, augments still more rapidly than the whites.* If civilization, instead of extending, were to change its place; if, after great and deplorable convulsions in Europe, America, between Cape Hatteras and the Missouri, were to become the principal seat of the light of Christianity, what a spectacle would be presented by that centre of civilization, where, in the sanctuary of liberty, we could attend a sale of negroes after the death of a master, and hear the sobbings of parents who are separated from their children! Let us hope that the generous principles which have so long animated the legislatures of the northern parts of the United States will extend by degrees southward and towards those western regions where, by the effect of an imprudent and fatal law, slavery and its iniquities have passed the chain of the Alleghenies and the banks of the Mississippi: let us hope that the force of public opinion, the progress of knowledge, the softening of manners, the legislation of the new continental republics and the great and happy event of the recognition of Hayti by the French government, will, either from motives of prudence and fear, or from more noble and disinterested sentiments, exercise a happy influence on the amelioration of the state of the blacks in the rest of the West Indies, in the Carolinas, Guiana, and Brazil.
[* In 1769, forty-six years before the declaration of the Congress at Vienna, and thirty-eight years before the abolition of the slave-trade, decreed in London and at Washington, the Chamber of Representatives of Massachusetts had declared itself against “the unnatural and unwarrantable custom of enslaving mankind.” See Walsh’s Appeal to the United States, 1819 page 312. The Spanish writer, Avendano, was perhaps the first who declaimed forcibly not only against the slave-trade, abhorred even by the Afghans (Elphinstone’s Journey to Cabul page 245), but against slavery in general, and “all the iniquitous sources of colonial wealth.” Thesaurus Ind. tom. 1 tit. 9 cap. 2.]
In order to slacken gradually the bonds of slavery the laws against the slave-trade must be most strictly enforced, and punishments inflicted for their infringement; mixed tribunals must be formed, and the right of search exercised with equitable reciprocity. It is melancholy to learn that, owing to the culpable indifference of some of the governments of Europe, the slave-trade (more cruel from having become more secret) has dragged from Africa, within ten years, almost the same number of negroes as before 1807; but we must not from this fact infer the inutility, or, as the secret partisans of slavery assert, the practical impossibility of the beneficent measures adopted first by Denmark, the United States and Great Britain, and successively by all the rest of Europe. What passed from 1807 till the time when France recovered possession of her ancient colonies, and what passes in our days in nations whose governments sincerely desire the abolition of the slave-trade and its abominable practices, proves the fallacy of this conclusion. Besides, is it reasonable to compare numerically the importation of slaves in 1825 and in 1806? With the activity prevailing in every enterprise of industry, what an increase would the importation of negroes have taken in the English West Indies and the southern provinces of the United States if the slave-trade, entirely free, had continued to supply new slaves, and had rendered the care of their preservation and the increase of the old population, superfluous? Can we believe that the English trade would have been limited, as in 1806, to the sale of 53,000 slaves; and that of the United States, to the sale of 15,000? It is pretty well ascertained that the English islands received in the 106 years preceding 1786 more than 2,130,000 negroes, forcibly carried from the coast of Africa. At the period of the French revolution, the slave-trade furnished (according to Mr. Norris) 74,000 slaves annually, of which the English colonies absorbed 38,000, and the French 20,000. It would be easy to prove that the whole of the West Indian archipelago, which now comprises scarcely 2,400,000 negroes and mulattoes (free and slaves), received, from 1670 to 1825, nearly 5,000,000 of Africans. These revolting calculations respecting the consumption of the human species do not include the number of unfortunate slaves who have perished in the passage or have been thrown into the sea as damaged merchandize.* By how many thousands must we have augmented the loss, if the two nations most distinguished for ardour and intelligence in the development of commerce and industry, the English and the inhabitants of the United States, had continued, from 1807, to carry on the trade as freely as some other nations of Europe? Sad experience has proved how much the treaties of the 15th July, 1814, and of the 22nd January, 1815, by which Spain and Portugal reserved to themselves the trade in blacks during a certain number of years, have been fatal to humanity.
[* Volume 7 page 151. See also the eloquent speech of the Duke de Broglie, March 28th, 1822 pages 40, 43 and 96.]
The local authorities, or rather the rich proprietors, forming the Ayuntamiento of the Havannah, the Consulado and the Patriotic Society, have on several occasions shown a disposition favourable to the amelioration of the condition of the slaves.* If the government of the mother-country, instead of dreading the least appearance of innovation, had taken advantage of those propitious circumstances, and of the ascendancy of some men of abilities over their countrymen, the state of society would have undergone progressive changes; and in our days, the inhabitants of the island of Cuba would have enjoyed some of the improvements which have been under discussion for the space of thirty years. The movement at Saint Domingo in 1790 and those which took place in Jamaica in 1794 caused so great an alarm among the haciendados of the island of Cuba that in a Junta economica it was warmly debated what measure could be adopted to secure the tranquillity of the country. Regulations were made respecting the pursuit of fugitive slaves,* which, till then, had given rise to the most revolting excesses; it was proposed to augment the number of negresses on the sugar estates, to direct more attention to the education of children, to diminish the introduction of African negroes, to bring white planters from the Canaries, and Indian planters from Mexico, to establish country schools with the view of improving the manners of the lower class, and to mitigate slavery in an indirect way. These propositions had not the desired effect. The junta opposed every system of immigration, and the majority of the proprietors, indulging their old illusions of security, would not restrain the slave-trade when the high price of the produce gave a hope of extraordinary profit. It would, however, be unjust not to acknowledge in this struggle between private interests and the views of wise policy, the desires and the principles manifested by some inhabitants of the island of Cuba, either in their own name or in the name of some rich and powerful corporations. “The humanity of our legislation,” says M. d’Arango nobly,* in a memoir written in 1796, “grants the slave four rights (quatro consuelos) which somewhat assuage his sufferings and which have always been refused him by a foreign policy. These rights are, the choice of a master less severe*; the privilege of marrying according to his own inclination; the possibility of purchasing his liberty* by his labour, and of paying, with an acquired property, for the liberty of his wife and children.* Notwithstanding the wisdom and mildness of Spanish legislation, to how many excesses the slave is exposed in the solitude of a plantation or a farm, where a rude capatez, armed with a cutlass (machete) and a whip, exercises absolute authority with impunity! The law neither limits the punishment of the slave, nor the duration of labour; nor does it prescribe the quality and quantity of his food.* It permits the slave, it is true, to have recourse to a magistrate, in order that he may enjoin the master to be more equitable; but this recourse is nearly illusory; for there exists another law according to which every slave may be arrested and sent back to his master who is found without permission at the distance of a league and a half from the plantation to which he belongs. How can a slave, whipped, exhausted by hunger, and excess of labour, find means to appear before the magistrate? and if he did reach him, how would he be defended against a powerful master who calls the hired accomplices of his cruelties as witnesses.”
[* Dicen nuestros Indios del Rio Caura cuando se confiesan que ya entienden que es pecado corner carne humana; pero piden qua se les permita desacostumbrarse poco a poco; quieren comer la carne humana una vez al mes, despues cada tres meses, hasta qua sin sentirlo pierdan la costumbre. Cartas de los Rev Padres Observantes Number 7 manuscript. [Our negroes of the River Caura say, when they confess, that they know it is sinful to eat human flesh; they beg to be permitted to break themselves of the custom, little by little: they wish to eat human flesh once a month, and afterwards once every three months, until they feel they have cured themselves of the practice.]]
[* Reglamento sobre los Negros Cimmarrones de 26 de Dec. de 1796. Before the year 1788 there were great numbers of fugitive negroes (cimmarones) in the mountains of Jaruco, where they were sometimes apalancados, that is, where several of those unfortunate creatures formed small intrenchments for their common defence by heaping up trunks of trees. The maroon negroes, born in Africa (bozales), are easily taken; for the greater number, in the vain hope of finding their native land, march day and night in the direction of the east. When taken they are so exhausted by fatigue and hunger that they are only saved by giving them, during several days, very small quantities of soup. The creole maroon negroes conceal themselves by day in the woods and steal provisions during the night. Till 1790, the right of taking the fugitive negroes belonged only to the Alcalde mayor provincial, an hereditary office in the family of the Count de Bareto. At present any of the inhabitants can seize the maroons and the proprietor of the slave pays four piastres per head, besides the food. If the name of the master is not known, the Consulado employs the maroon negro in the public works. This man-hunting, which, at Hayti and Jamaica, has given so much fatal celebrity to the dogs of Cuba, was carried on in the most cruel manner before the regulation which I have mentioned above.]
[* Informe sobre negros fugitives (de 9 de Junio de 1769), par Don Francisco de Arango y Pareno, Oidor honorario y syndico del Consulado.]
[* The right of buscar amo. When a slave has found a new master who will purchase him, he may quit the master of whom he has to complain; such is the sense and spirit of a law, beneficent, though often eluded, as are all the laws that protect the slaves. In the hope of enjoying the privilege of buscar amo, the blacks often address to the travellers they meet, a question, which in civilized Europe, where a vote or an opinion is sometimes sold, is more equivocally expressed; Quiere Vm comprarme? [Will you buy me, Sir?]]
[* A slave in the Spanish colonies ought, according to law, to be estimated at the lowest price; this estimate, at the time of my journey, was, according to the locality, from 200 to 380 piastres. In 1825 the price of an adult negro at the island of Cuba, was 450 piastres. In 1788 the French trade furnished a negro for 280 to 300 piastres. A slave among the Greeks cost 300 to 600 drachmes (54 to 108 piastres), when the day-labourer was paid one-tenth of a piastre. While the Spanish laws and institutions favour manumission in every way, the master, in the other islands, pays the fiscal, for every freed slave, five to seven hundred piastres!]
[* What a contrast is observable between the humanity of the most ancient Spanish laws concerning slavery, and the traces of barbarism found in every page of the Black Code and in some of the provincial laws of the English islands! The laws of Barbadoes, made in 1686, and those of Bermuda, in 1730, decreed that the master who killed his negro in chastising him, could not even be sued, while the master who killed his slave wilfully should pay ten pounds sterling to the royal treasury. A law of saint Christopher’s, of March 11th, 1784, begins with these words: “Whereas some persons have of late been guilty of cutting off and depriving slaves of their ears, we order that whoever shall extirpate an eye, tear out the tongue, or cut off the nose of a slave, shall pay five hundred pounds sterling, and be condemned to six months imprisonment.” It is unnecessary to add that these English laws, which were in force thirty or forty years ago, are abolished and superseded by laws more humane. Why can I not say as much of the legislation of the French islands, where six young slaves, suspected of an intention to escape, were condemned, by a sentence pronounced in 1815, to have their hamstrings cut!]
[* A royal cedula of May 31st, 1789 had attempted to regulate the food and clothing; but that cedula was never executed.]
In conclusion I may quote a very remarkable extract from the Representacion del Ayuntamiento, Consulado, y Sociedad patriotica, dated July 20th, 1811. “In all that relates to the changes to be introduced in the captive class, there is much less question of our fears on the diminution of agricultural wealth, than of the security of the whites, so easy to be compromised by imprudent measures. Besides, those who accuse the consulate and the municipality of the Havannah of obstinate resistance forget that, in the year 1799, the same authorities proposed fruitlessly that the government would divert attention to the state of the blacks in the island of Cuba (del arreglo de este delicado asunto.) Further, we are far from adopting the maxims which the nations of Europe, who boast of their civilization, have regarded as incontrovertible; that, for instance, without slaves there could be no colonies. We declare, on the contrary, that without slaves, and even without blacks, colonies might have existed, and that the whole difference would have been comprised in more or less profit, by the more or less rapid increase of the products. But such being our firm persuasion, we ought also to remind your Majesty that a social organization into which slavery has been introduced as an element cannot be changed with inconsiderate precipitation. We are far from denying that it was an evil contrary to all moral principles to drag slaves from one continent to another; that it was a political error not to have listened to the remonstrances of Ovando, the governor of Hispaniola, who complained of the introduction and accumulation of so many slaves in proximity with a small number of free men; but, these evils being now inveterate, we ought to avoid rendering our position and that of our slaves worse, by the employment of violent means. What we ask of your Majesty is conformable to the wish proclaimed by one of the most ardent protectors of the rights of humanity, by the most determined enemy of slavery; we desire, like him, that the civil laws should deliver us at the same time from abuses and dangers.”
On the solution of this problem depends, in the West India Islands only, and exclusive of the republic of Hayti, the security of 875,000 free men (whites and men of colour*) and the mitigation of the sufferings of 1,150,000 slaves. It is evident that these objects can never be attained by peaceful means, without the concurrence of the local authorities, either colonial assemblies, or meetings of proprietors designated by less dreaded names, by the old parent state. The direct influence of the authorities is indispensable; and it is a fatal error to believe that we may leave it to time to act. Time will act simultaneously on the slaves, on the relations between the islands and the inhabitants of the continent, and on events which cannot be controlled, when they have been waited for with the inaction of apathy. Wherever slavery is long established, the increase of civilization solely has less influence on the treatment of slaves than many are disposed to admit. The civilization of a nation seldom extends to a great number of individuals; and does not reach those who in the plantations are in immediate contact with the blacks. I have known very humane proprietors shrink from the difficulties that arise in the great plantations; they hesitate to disturb established order, to make innovations, which, if not simultaneous, not supported by the legislation, or (which would be more powerful) by public feeling, would fail in their end, and perhaps aggravate the wretchedness of those whose sufferings they were meant to alleviate. These considerations retard the good that might be effected by men animated by the most benevolent intentions, and who deplore the barbarous institutions which have devolved to them by inheritance. They well know that to produce an essential change in the state of the slaves, to lead them progressively to the enjoyment of liberty, requires a firm will on the part of the local authorities, the concurrence of wealthy and enlightened citizens, and a general plan in which all chances of disorder and means of repression are wisely calculated. Without this community of action and effort slavery, with its miseries and excesses, will survive as it did in ancient Rome,* along with elegance of manners, progressive intelligence, and all the charms of the civilization which its presence accuses, and which it threatens to destroy, whenever the hour of vengeance shall arrive. Civilization, or slow national demoralization, merely prepare the way for future events; but to produce great changes in the social state there must be a coincidence of certain events, the period of the occurrence of which cannot be calculated. Such is the complication of human destiny, that the same cruelties which tarnished the conquest of America have been re-enacted before our own eyes in times which we suppose to be characterized by vast progress, information and general refinement of manners. Within the interval embraced by the span of one life we have seen the reign of terror in France, the expedition to St. Domingo,* the political re-action in Naples and Spain, I may also add, the massacres of Chio, Ipsara and Missolonghi, the work of the barbarians of Eastern Europe, which the civilized nations of the north and west did not deem it their duty to prevent. In slave countries, where the effect of long habit tends to legitimize institutions the most adverse to justice, it is vain to count on the influence of information, of intellectual culture, or refinement of manners, except in as much as all those benefits accelerate the impulse given by governments and facilitate the execution of measures once adopted. Without the directive action of governments and legislatures a peaceful revolution is a thing not to be hoped for. The danger becomes the more imminent when a general inquietude pervades the public mind; when amidst the political dissensions of neighbouring countries the faults and the duties of governments have been revealed: in such cases tranquillity can be restored only by a ruling authority which, in the noble consciousness of its power and right, sways events by entering itself on the career of improvement.
[* Namely: 452,000 whites, of which 342,000 are in the two Spanish Islands (Cuba and Porto Rico), and 423,000 free men of colour, mulattoes, and blacks.]
[* The argument deduced from the civilization of Rome and Greece in favour of slavery is much in vogue in the West Indies, where sometimes we find it adorned with all the graces of erudition. Thus, in speeches delivered in 1795, in the Legislative Assembly of Jamaica, it was alleged that from the example of elephants having been employed in the wars of Pyrrhus and Hannibal, it could not be blamable to have brought a hundred dogs and forty hunters from the island of Cuba to hunt the maroon negroes. Bryan Edwards volume 1 page 570.]
[* The North American Review for 1821 Number 30 contains the following passage: Conflicts with slaves fighting for their freedom are not only dreadful on account of the atrocities to which they give rise on both sides; but even after freedom has been gained they help to confound every sentiment of justice and injustice. Some planters are condemning to death all the male negro population above six years of age. They affirm that those who have not borne arms will be contaminated by the example of those who have been fighting. This merciless act is the consequence of the result of the continued misfortunes of the colonies. Charault, Reflexions sur Saint Domingue.]
Last updated Saturday, October 24, 2015 at 23:03